Saturday, March 29, 2003

UK needs Bogans against Marquette

Final Four trip could rest on sore ankle

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MINNEAPOLIS - Cliff Hawkins has kept at hand the Bourbon Street beads with which Kentucky fans showered the Wildcats after their Southeastern Conference Tournament championship in New Orleans. He pulls them out periodically to remind his teammates of where they want to return next week, for the Final Four.

Tipoff: 4:40 p.m. today, Metrodome (38,296), Minneapolis.
Records: UK 32-3, Marquette 26-5.
TV: Ch. 12, 7.
Radio: WSAI-AM (1530), WCKY-AM (1360).
Line: UK by 6 1/2.
Series: UK leads 7-5.
The Wildcats today might be fingering rosary beads as well.

Though top-ranked and favored today, UK (32-3) might have its chances against Marquette (26-5) hinge greatly upon Keith Bogans' achy ankle.

UK's senior leader will make a game-time decision about whether he can play in the Midwest Regional final in the Metrodome. With their 26-game winning streak on the line, his coach and teammates say they'll have extra motivation to make sure Bogans gets his long-awaited shot at the Final Four.

"We're approaching it as winning one for the Gipper, or maybe the skipper," coach Tubby Smith said.

Keith Bogans sprains his left ankle after a collision with Wisconsin's Kirk Penney Thursday.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
Bogans, who suffered a high ankle sprain Thursday night when he fell backward on his left leg against Wisconsin, has had the ankle treated and iced repeatedly. He wore a compression boot to keep the swelling down and has had the ankle hooked up to an electrical stimulation machine.

Bogans said Friday he plans to try to play.

"I'm motivated," he said. "My confidence is very high right now. I'll just hope for the best."

UK's doctors and trainer were not made available for comment, but Bogans said the decision about his availability would be his. It's a matter of pain tolerance.

"Only I know how much I'm hurting," he said. "If it's up to me, I'm gonna gut it out. It hurt having to watch (Thursday) night and not be out there."

If he takes the floor, the next issue would be whether he's mobile enough to be helpful. "I don't want to hurt my team," Bogans said.

Yet his presence alone could be an inspirational force. Think of Willis Reed limping out for Game Seven of the 1970 NBA Finals for the Knicks. Or Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves hobbling back to the court during the second half of the 2000 NCAA title game.

"We still have to get it done, with or without him," UK sophomore Chuck Hayes said.

Smith said he'll probably start Hawkins instead of Bogans.

High ankle sprains are considered the more painful and slower-to-heal variety.

"I've seen guys go for months without being able to play," Smith said. "We had a high ankle sprain last year with one of our players (Rashaad Carruth), and he missed a month.

"(Bogans) was able to put pressure on his foot today and raise his toes, which is a good sign."

UK today attempts to reach its first Final Four since 1998. It could match the 27-game winning streak of the 1995-96 season as its longest of the past 48 years.

Though Marquette hasn't been this far since 1977, it isn't the only one appreciating this opportunity.

"Even for the best teams, this chance only comes every once in a while," UK fifth-year senior Jules Camara said.

These teams are statistically similar. UK shoots 49.1 percent; Marquette, 48.6. UK allows opponents just 41.1 percent shooting; the Golden Eagles, 41.2.

The Golden Eagles rode hot shooting through their three NCAA games, making 50.9 percent overall and 58.7 percent (27-of-46) from 3-point range.

This game figures to be decided by matchups. The two most prominent figure to be how UK defends All-American Dwyane Wade and how Marquette guards UK center Marquis Estill.

A healthy Bogans probably would have been assigned to Wade (21.3 ppg), a 6-foot-5 shooting guard. Hayes, a physical player who bodied up well Thursday on Wisconsin star Kirk Penney, would seem likely to draw Wade first tonight.

"If I get that chance, I'll do my best to try to wear him down," Hayes said. "You've got to stay in front of him."

Antwain Barbour probably also will see time guarding Wade.

"I don't think anybody can guard him one-on-one," said Marquette's Joe Chapman, who guards Wade each day in practice.

Marquette isn't expected to try to defend Estill one-on-one, after he averaged 23 points and eight rebounds the past two games against single coverage.

Hawkins probably will get most of the minutes on Marquette point guard Travis Diener (12.3 ppg), who has averaged 19.7 points and 5.0 assists in this tournament.

"Everyone wants to go back to New Orleans," Hawkins said. "Now's the time to get it done."


Today's lineups:
Chuck HayesSo.6-68.9
Erik DanielsJr.6-89.5
Marquis EstillSr.6-911.7
Gerald FitchJr.6-312.2
Cliff HawkinsJr.6-16.3

Coach: Tubby Smith (164-46, sixth season; 288-108 overall).

Todd TownsendSo.6-76.1
Scott MerrittJr.6-1010.3
Robert JacksonSr.6-1015.2
Dwyane WadeJr.6-521.4
Travis DienerSo.6-112.3

Coach: Tom Crean (82-40, fourth season; same overall).


41.1Opp. FG%41.2
32.7Opp. 3-pt.%33.2
63.6Opp. PPG68.7
+6.0Reb. margin+5.0
+2.5Turn. margin+0.9

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