LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — TyTy Washington is on a roll.
The Kentucky freshman guard was named Southeastern Conference Co-Freshman of the Week after leading the Wildcats to wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee last week. He scored a career-high 28 points in a 107-79 win over the Volunteers and averaged 21.5 points and 4.5 assists per game. He has claimed or shared the award four straight weeks.
Washington’s teammates, including point guard Sahvir Wheeler, haven’t been surprised by his recent string of impressive performances.
“He’s growing and we’re seeing him grow right before our eyes,” Wheeler said. “Right in the middle of games, he’s being more efficient and more assertive. He’s being unselfish and he’s guarding. He’s getting better and he’s only going to continue to get better as well.”
Washington has made his first field goal attempt during the last 11 games and has scored double figures in 13 games, including six of the past seven games. In addition, Washington has scored 20 or more points four times this season.
Kentucky has opened Southeastern Conference play with four victories in the first five league encounters and has won three straight since a loss at LSU on Jan. 4. Washington said the team’s success has been because of an emphasis on “making shots and executing.”
“Players have to show up in games,” Washington said. “At the end of the day, it’s really about players making shots. Over the course of practices, we’ve been doing shooting drills and making sure us shooters are shot-ready, getting the ball off quick, just really making the shots, and shooting the ball straight, as Coach (John) Calipari says.
“As long as you shoot it straight, you have a chance. We really can’t rely on Oscar [Tshiebwe] all the time to try to carry us in big games. A lot of other guys really have to step up as a whole, and we all pinpoint that and feel like that’s what we did (against Tennessee), and we all stepped up and executed.”
In his first season with the Wildcats, Washington has been mentored by his older teammates, including Kellan Grady, one of the team’s top three-point shooters.
Washington refers to Kellan as Grandad Grady, a nickname that doesn’t seem to bother Grady.
“He embraces it,” Washington said. “He has to, he has no other choice. That’s his name. He understands that and he understands he is one of the vets on the team. He’s going to be granddad for the rest of his life to me.”
Grady has made a team-leading 48 3-pointers this year. He made back-to-back threes and four overall treys in the easy win over the Volunteers.
“He got it started early for us (against Tennessee),” Washington said. “Once we know that he’s getting it going, we already know, we’re all going to feed off his energy and we’re all going to play how he’s playing.”
A season-high crowd of 20,278 attended Kentucky’s game against Tennessee last Saturday and Washington took notice of a full house.
“I was looking up to the very top and I could see people standing and the crowd came into the game with a lot of intensity and I just felt like we matched their intensity,” Washington said. “The majority of the game they were standing up, screaming and we could just feel how electrifying it was not only for myself but everyone on the team. It just gives us a real confidence boost knowing that we have a fan base behind us that believes in us.”
Kentucky’s next two games are at Texas A&M Wednesday, followed by a showdown at No. 2 Auburn on Saturday. Kentucky hosts Mississippi State at 9 p.m. on Jan. 25.
The Wildcats moved up from No. 18 to 12th in the latest Associated Press Top-25 rankings released on Monday.
Gametracker: Kentucky at Texas A&M, Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.