What had been a 39-26 lead early in the second half was entirely gone when Cougars guard Armoni Brooks hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 49-all and Corey Davis’ drive put Houston in front by a pair with 3:38 remaining. Kentucky scored on six of seven possessions from that point, including Herro’s big 3-pointer. Washington’s two free throws iced it.“I love our will to win,” Calipari said. “To be where we are still standing when we had Reid (Travis) out for what, three weeks, we had PJ out for … how we got through last weekend without him, I have no idea. I’ll say it again, if you take the best player off of any team in the NCAA Tournament, they’re not going to be the same. We just happened to survive.”The Wildcats lasted just long enough without Washington for him to hop into the picture and rescue them. It’s not the kind of thing Kentucky will forget. One more win, though, and his heroics will bear a reward that goes beyond public appreciation. His injured foot wasn’t feeling fine enough even to go through a gameday shootaround before the Wildcats faced 3-seed Houston in the Midwest Region semis in Kansas City. When it was time to warm up for the game in the hallways underneath Sprint Center, though, Washington was jogging with the other Wildcats. When the game tipped off, he was on the bench in uniform, waiting to be summoned.SN’s MARCH MADNESS HQLive NCAA bracket | Live scoreboard | Full TV scheduleWhen it was over, Washington was the star of a harrowing, 62-58, come-from-ahead-and-then-from-behind Wildcats victory. When it was over, Washington had left an indelible mark in a state where they remember the sort of sacrifice he made Friday evening.“We don’t win today if he doesn’t play,” UK coach John Calipari said to TBS’ Jamie Erdahl afterward. “I asked him before the game: ‘You going to be able to go?’ And he said: ‘I’m going.’”A week ago, not long after the pain in his foot first developed, the UK medical team had Washington’s left foot encased in a hard cast. He missed the team’s first-round NCAA game against Abilene Christian, and then a more challenging second-round win over Wofford.He told Erdahl each time she asked that his pain was significant. After he scored 16 points, shot 6 of 8 from the floor and delivered what could be considered a game-saving blocked shot with 36 seconds left and UK ahead by a point, he told her, “Right now, I can’t feel nothing.”Hear from John Calipari & PJ Washington after @KentuckyMBB gets the win over Houston to send them to the #Elite8. 🕺#MarchMadness | #Sweet16 pic.twitter.com/Gf0r8CiWfB— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 30, 2019A year ago, Washington had played on this same stage and performed brilliantly, in every department but one. He played all 40 minutes in that Sweet 16 game against Kansas State. He scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. But he went to the line for 20 free throws and only made eight. UK lost the game by just three points.This time, he was called upon to shoot two free throws with 3:51 left. He made them both to tie the score at 51. He got the ball in the post with 57 seconds left and UK down three. He scored on a jump-hook into his left shoulder, drawing a foul in the process. He missed that chance to tie the game from the line, but responded with that enormous block against Houston star Corey Davis Jr. It was a vicious rejection, but also gentle enough to remain inbounds for Wildcats freshman guard Tyler Herro to retrieve it.Exactly 11 seconds later, Herro bravely nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing and put UK ahead for good.PJ WASHINGTON BLOCKS. TYLER HERRO DROPS.Kentucky up two. pic.twitter.com/7yYtNJr4zQ— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 30, 2019MORE: Washington engineering Kentucky’s turnaroundAsked why he would play under these circumstances, Washington responded, “I had to. I didn’t want to let my teammates down. We had to win, so I just sucked it up.”Washington admitted he took some medicine for the pain before the game. “It kind of started hurting in the second half, but I have to tough through it,” he told reporters. “Through the end of the game, it was trying to cramp up. I’m definitely going back to get some treatment after this and try to get a good night’s sleep.”A Sporting News All-American primarily for his work in the regular season’s final six weeks, Washington was able to last 26 minutes against the Cougars. That wasn’t far off his per-game average of 29, but he’d gone 35 or more six times since Jan. 26 against Kansas.Make no mistake: The Wildcats needed him, not only to provide stability (point guard Ashton Hagans was limited to 26 minutes because of foul trouble) but also because the team was suffering in the second half from an overabundance of turnovers and dubious shots. There have been, through eight decades of NCAA Tournaments, 134 Kentucky Wildcats who have played in the Final Four, from superstars such as Jack “Goose” Givens in 1978 to walk-ons making ceremonial appearances such as Tod Lanter in 2015.PJ Washington is aching, literally, to be one of them.