Sunday, February 16, 2003

Kentucky 68, LSU 57


Wildcats' defense does it again

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEXINGTON - Kentucky had been playing sloppy for a month, and in the confines of the Vanderbilt visitor's locker room Jan.14, the seniors spoke up.

Keith Bogans, Marquis Estill and Jules Camara reportedly talked to their teammates at halftime that day. Their message was this: What we're doing individually isn't working. Let's commit ourselves to playing our coach's style and see what happens.

That meant a steady diet of defense. It spelled the nation's longest winning streak - 14 games and counting.

A day like Saturday, when UK muddled past Louisiana State 68-57, served as a reminder the Wildcats can will their way through an off shooting game.

"Defense wins championships," said UK junior Erik Daniels, a Princeton High graduate. "With our defense being so tough, sometimes our offense doesn't have to be as good as it usually is."

The third-ranked Wildcats (20-3) held the Tigers to 37 percent shooting, forcing 17 turnovers and winning the rebounding battle 46-30.

"The turning point for their team was ... the second half against Vanderbilt, when that defensive intensity for some reason just turned up," LSU coach John Brady said. "They've been doing it ever since."

UK trailed 36-28 at halftime at Vanderbilt, and to that point its opponents were shooting 43.6 percent on the season. Since that halftime speech, the Wildcats have allowed just 38.1 percent shooting.

As a result, UK is 10-0 in the Southeastern Conference, vying to become just the second team since 1956 to go unbeaten in the conference and leads every defensive statistical category in league play.

"They get into the passing lanes effectively enough to cause turnovers and make a team timid," LSU forward Ronald Dupree said.

UK has ranked no lower than fourth in the SEC in defensive field-goal percentage in each of Tubby Smith's five previous seasons.

UK shot just 39.3 percent, having to wait for Gerald Fitch to heat up before it could build a 20-point lead with 5 minutes left. At that point, LSU (14-9, 3-8 SEC) was shooting 34.1 percent.

The Tigers closed within 11 points with three minutes left, then within five points with 40 seconds left. But Daniels, Bogans and Cliff Hawkins made two free throws apiece to seal it.

There were concerns. The Wildcats worked themselves into serious foul trouble - centers Estill and Camara both carried four fouls with 11:43 left. Their post defense was spotty, as LSU's Jaime Lloreda totaled 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting. UK also committed 16 turnovers.

Perhaps the Wildcats were overdue for a close game.

"You can get complacent, and I sensed that coming into this game," Smith said. "This will give us a lot to work on."

UK's Keith Bogans totaled 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Fitch scored 13 of his 15 points after halftime.

UK Notebook: Barbour coming around

LSUMFGAttFTAttRAFTOTP
Dupree344913725410
Lloreda3181224913318
Bright3531022243210
Whipple17010021230
Temple III3431356622413
Mitchell15131101514
Wolfert20020011200
Bridgewater14140321002
Totals200205411192913221757
Team rebounds - 1.

KentuckyMFGAttFTAttRAFTOTP
Daniels333734103349
Hayes352833101426
Estill19370030426
Fitch3341048410015
Bogans3451577732320
Hawkins14022332312
Barbour21340161016
Camara11230000404
Totals200225618254311201668
Team rebounds - 3.

LSU2136-57
Kentucky2741-68
3-pointers - LSU 6-19 (Dupree 1-1, Bright 2-7, Temple III 2-8, Mitchell 1-3), UK 6-20 (Daniels 0-1, Hayes 0-1, Fitch 3-7, Bogans 3-9, Hawkins 0-1, Barbour 0-1). Technicals - None. Officials - N/A. Attendance - 22,483.




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