Bogans' bad ankle weakened Kentucky in too many places

Wildcats struggled along with injured senior

Oklahoma sees orange

NCAA notebook

College Basketball

Ncaa Tournament

March 30, 2003|By Christian Ewell, Ken Murray and Paul McMullen | Christian Ewell, Ken Murray and Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Kentucky just wasn't the same without a healthy Keith Bogans.

The senior point guard was clearly hampered by his sprained left ankle yesterday, and the Wildcats' 26-game winning streak came to a stunning end with an 83-69 loss to Marquette in the Midwest Regional final.

"I don't know what happened," forward Chuck Hayes said. "It's like a big nightmare."

Wearing a white plastic brace on the ankle, Bogans started after consulting with coach Tubby Smith and the team's trainers. Bogans scored 15 points in 24 minutes - but he obviously wasn't at full strength.

"It was painful," Bogans said. "I tried to block it out."

The DeMatha guard entered the court several minutes after his teammates began their warm-ups. Smith said the on-court presence of Bogans - Player of the Year in the Southeastern Conference - might inspire the team. "But we couldn't seem to execute," Smith said of the Wildcats, who shot 26 percent in the first half.

Was staying on the bench a consideration?

"Nah, the game meant too much to sit and watch," said Bogans, who patiently and quietly answered dozens of questions for about 20 minutes in a somber locker room after a post-game news conference.

The outside shooting, tough defense and tireless leadership he normally provides were missing, and his struggles seemed to carry over to the rest of the team.

Bogans made a wide-open three-pointer from the corner to pull the top-seeded Wildcats to 22-19 with 7:45 left before halftime, but that was Kentucky's last basket until Cliff Hawkins scored with 16 seconds remaining to trim Marquette's lead to 45-26.

Grimacing at times and slightly favoring his right foot on jumps and cuts, Bogans' touch was gone, too. He was 4-for-11 from the field - 3-for-7 from three-point range - and was unable to get open and knock down a critical perimeter shot.

The Wildcats insisted, though, that seeing Bogans hobble around was an inspiration and not a detriment. "We weren't even thinking about Keith's injury," Gerald Fitch said.

Not their crowd

Oklahoma has to play in the back yard of No. 3 seed Syracuse in the East Regional final today for the right to reach the Final Four, a circumstance that betrays the Sooners' No. 1 seed. But they took the high road yesterday, talking about that bracket injustice.

"We can't complain because this is what we wanted," Oklahoma's Hollis Price said. "We wanted to be a 1 seed. It happened. Now we have to take what was handed to us."

Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson couldn't help but notice the sea of orange at Albany's Pepsi Arena, and he couldn't help but acknowledge the obvious afterward. The Sooners may be favored, but Syracuse will have the crowd.

"This is a road game for us because we're in Albany, N.Y., and there will be a pro-Syracuse crowd. ... If this game was in Dallas, I would think we'd have a big advantage," he said.

The Orangemen know the crowd doesn't assure them of anything, but it won't hurt, either.

"That's not for us to worry about," said Syracuse's Kueth Duany. "That's for the other team - how they're going to react to the crowd."

Said guard Gerry McNamara: "I don't think the crowd matter much against a team like Oklahoma. It could help us if we go on a run and feed off them [the fans]."

He's still in college

Baltimore's Carmelo Anthony has done his best to defuse talk about his leaving Syracuse after the season for the NBA. His answer is pretty much the same each time he's asked about his plans:

"No, I haven't made up my mind. I haven't thought about my future. I've got these games right now," the former Towson Catholic standout said.

Even as a freshman, and even after a scoreless half, he has the ability to dominate games, as he did Friday night against Auburn when he scored all 18 points in the second half. Asked if anyone has come close to stopping him this season, Anthony paused slightly to consider his answer.

"I don't want to sound cocky, but no," he said.

Boeheim: no surprise

Syracuse's successful NCAA run is no surprise to Jim Boeheim, despite the fact that three of his best players are freshmen.

"I don't think there was any time we didn't think we had a very good team and would have a chance to make a run in the tournament," he said. "When we won at Michigan State and Notre Dame late in the season, those two road wins really convinced us we could go on the road and win anyplace."

Ready to return

Sampson, meanwhile, said a second straight trip to the Final Four would mean more because his team isn't as talented as it was a year ago.

"I felt like last year's team could beat anybody," Sampson said. "We hammered some really good teams. ... We felt we were the best team every time we took the court.

"It's so hard just to get to one Final Four. To get to two ... this one would be more special because this team is not as good as that team."

Helpful rivals

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo openly acknowledged that he had already discussed strategy on how to beat Texas with Purdue's Gene Keady, whose team lost to the Longhorns in the second round. The two do battle in the Big Ten Conference, but once in the NCAAs, they help each other.

"That's why he's Gene Keady," Izzo said of the Purdue coach, who gets more notice for a bad comb-over than the fact that he's one of the most respected men in the business.

Texas coach Rick Barnes, meanwhile, remained coy about his counsel. He said that he was "going to talk to someone" about Michigan State, and that would presumably be Gary Williams. His Maryland team took the Spartans to the buzzer Friday night. Barnes assisted Williams one season at Ohio State, and when Barnes was at Clemson, the two commiserated as Tobacco Road outsiders.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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