Kentucky Basketball: The Best Moments From 2019

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: Corey Davis Jr. #5 of the Houston Cougars shoots the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: Corey Davis Jr. #5 of the Houston Cougars shoots the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Kentucky Basketball experiences great annual success on the basketball court, but what moments will be remembered most from 2019?

Fellas, welcome. Welcome to a new leadership here on Wildcat Blue Nation. After months of dormancy, I, your new site expert, Alex Weber, am arriving on the back of a phoenix to deliver salvation to the number one fanbase in the world (by a significant margin, I might add): THE BIG BLUE NATION. I plan to spread my words and wisdom (or lack thereof) about Kentucky sports like wildfire–all for the (hopeful) enjoyment of the readers.

So, as readers of the site, all 15 million of you, do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments section below or on Twitter at my handle (@Weber2MG) or the site’s handle (WildcatBlueNatn). If you think I’m an idiot (I am, by the way, considering I’m in college) tell me! But if you take it too far and threaten to kill me or something, well, I’ll probably just laugh and post it on Twitter. However, if you’re just brimming with brilliant ideas, shoot them at me. I’m all ears for a good idea. Heck, if you wanna help contribute in some way let me know and I might just make it happen. Like all the creative writers who pledge their allegiance to The Athletic, “I’m excited!” And “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Not with the Louisville FanSided division,, by the way. (I just threw that last line in there to prove I can quote cinematic verse four times my age. But let’s go.)

So, on the topic of my first article, I decided to take a look back, to enter the hindsight matrix and review Kentucky’s 2019 basketball season–one full of its fair share of triumphs and defeats. There were several instances or moments from the past year in roundball sure to be remembered long past their happening. But of those individual moments of prominence, which was superior? What was the 2019 Kentucky Men’s Basketball Team’s true peak? The moment that riled up fans’ giddiness and the time we as a fanbase experienced the most euphoria. Even though football stole the show this past school year, basketball by no means had a down year. What were the ups?

I’ll rank them below, in my own order. Feel free to disagree (or, God forbid, agree).

4. I’m a bucket.


A quote for the pantheon. But also a performance for the Tyler Herro personal pantheon. In a game where Kentucky had more turnovers than made shots in the first half, Tyler’s onslaught was necessary but also incredibly fun. This moment was never a serious contender but the “I’m a bucket” line may be the most memorable quote ever from a Calipari player.

3. Beating Auburn by 27

The other Kentucky/Auburn game. Not the one where we got up by double digits and squandered another sizeable first-half lead en route to having our season ended by Bruce Pearl and Auburn’s Sister Jean reincarnation.

I’m referring to the February bout, where Kentucky trounced the then-kittens (not Tigers) behind a customary stellar performance from PJ Washington and a hot shooting afternoon from one Tyler Herro. From tip to finish, Kentucky dominated. Not a single man in checkerboard had a bad day–even Nick Richards’ foolishness was silenced.

At this point in the season, Kentucky was ranked 7th in the country and had lost Reid Travis for the foreseeable future in the previous game against Missouri. Without the veteran big man on tap, Washington further cemented himself as Grant Williams’ only peer in the SEC Player of the Year conversation, making several threes in the first half and controlling the paint against a talented Auburn frontline which included healthy and future 16th pick Chuma Okeke. I remember this being the last straw for my Washington/Three-point shooting uneasiness. I finally allowed myself to believe Washington was a good shooter. And he was a great one.

The Saturday afternoon trouncing buzzed Kentucky faithful on dreams of National Title glory. Coming off the heels of another enormous win the weekend prior and despite Reid Travis’ absence, Kentucky hammered an opponent who would prove to be one of the best teams in college basketball by seasons end–even (sigh) better than Kentucky.

2. Superfight I

AKA: Kentucky’s blowout home victory over top-ranked Tennessee. Vols fans, read that line over again because it will never be repeated: TOP-RANKED TENNESSEE. As nature would have it, Kentucky ended Rocky Top’s reign over the AP no. 1 ranking in 40 minutes of whirlwind wreckage.

Now, I refer to this battle between the SEC’s two top foes as “Superfight I” because it was damn sure a fight (dudes just beating the crap outta each other), and there were three epic installations, just like between Frazier and Ali (I’m not sure if you’ve heard of them). Two heavyweights–besides Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield–in the college basketball world going punch for punch multiple times in one season. Awesome stuff. Here’s a take: this year’s UK/UT rivalry was better than Duke/UNC. The storylines were more interesting (I know shoegate happened, but that took away more interest than it gave back) and the games were absolute bloodbaths. After the SEC Tournament semifinal, every player who rubbed elbows with PJ Washington or Grant Williams looked like Beverley Marsh from It after her sink vomited blood:


Before losing the final two Superfights, Kentucky vanquished the nation’s current undisputed champion and humbled even the Admiral, who admitted, “honestly, they just kicked our butts.” They sure did. Behind a personal Keldon Johnson 11-0 run in the first half and an I’m a military tank and I’m just going to flatten you performance from PJ against Grant Williams, the Cats established who, at that point in the season, was the superior side.

A raucous Rupp crowd combined with a thorough beatdown of No. 1 Tennessee turned a frigid February evening into one of those nights where half-naked frat boys are wearing sombreros and making snow angels in the yards of State Street. To be clear: that’s a strong indication of a special night.

1. The Houston Escape

If you’ll recall, Kentucky’s Sweet Sixteen matchup was a disaster we barely survived (Houston, we had many problems). Even without PJ in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, withstanding the likes of Abilene Christian and Wofford came without fault. Advancing past three-seed and AAC kingpin Houston without the services of Washington seemed fairly unlikely. And the leadup to the game was an absolute nightmare for members of the media (like myself, not to brag). Washington’s injury was like the freakin JFK assassination where a new conspiracy was born every second. No one had any idea what in the world was happening. Not even PJ! In a matter of moments, narratives spun every which way and esteemed media personalities were even falling for fake reports. Stupid rumors like he kicked a wall after losing a videogame began surfacing from Twitter randos and people took it as reporting gold. That’s how dire the situation was. PJ was the biggest story for one of the nation’s two premier programs. Everyone wanted information and there simply was none. It made fans delirious. Who could blame them? Our fanbase is famous (not notorious) for its passion and obsession. We needed PJ.

And at the end of the speculation tunnel, Paul Jamaine Washington Jr. bit his lip and played through the pain in the Sweet Sixteen matchup against Houston. Calipari planned on holding him to a minutes restriction but Washington had other ideas. In 26 minutes off the bench, P.J. contributed 16 crucial points and the usual toughness and leadership.

With 1:05 left in the game, Kentucky called a timeout down 58-55, staring deep into the pupils of defeat. Out of the stoppage, Kentucky inbounded to Tyler Herro who passed the ball to Washington on the post with his back to the basket. We’d seen this play five hundred times. One dribble. Turnaround. Jumper. Swish. Foul. Mean Mug. Flex. That’s our guy! He missed the and-one free throw, though, leaving Houston up one with the ball and under a minute to play. At the other end, on the most important defensive possession of the season, Ashton Hagans got beat off the dribble and Paul Jamaine was there to swat Houston’s floater.

The block landed in the hands of Tyler Herro who dribbled at a jog and slid it to Keldon Johnson on the wing. Johnson took three triples, spun, and dished it back to Herro at the three-point line. John Calipari offered the white kid from Wisconsin a scholarship at Kentucky for this exact moment. Tyler caught it, forgot to think, and unleashed.

That was your game winner. Ice in his veins. That shot was the moment of the season. It’s the one that will be played in all the highlight reels and will be the sequence etched in stone from the 2019 bunch. Had Kentucky advanced to the Final Four, it would be an all-timer.

I’m not going to forget, though, that Washington won us that game. He entered the Michael Jordan mentality. We are not losing this game, not while I’m on the court. Special, special players have that ability. Folks, PJ. shredded all injury concerns, discomforts, and downright pains to suit up and play for the chance at a ninth national championship for this program. And he delivered, making two of the three most important plays in the game. PJ Washington is a legend. We should write stories about him.