Date story published: Thursday, February 22, 2001
Keith Bogans made sure he was the first player in the Kentucky locker room at halftime last night. "I was trying to get a good seat," he said.
In his case, a good seat was not in the front row. It would have been where Bob Uecker sat in that famous beer commercial: as far from the action as possible.
"On my way here, I knew I was about to get it," Bogans said in the same locker room after UK's 84-61 victory over Louisiana State. "The way I played, I just knew it. Coach was not going to accept the way I was playing."
No, UK Coach Tubby Smith was not. After a blast of Smith rhetoric, Bogans played what he termed "overall, my best second half."
He scored all 23 of his points in the half that saw Kentucky break away from short-handed LSU.
But, Smith said, it wasn't Bogans' passive offense in the opening half (two shots, no baskets) that prompted his do-better halftime talk.
"He's done a good job letting his (offensive) game come to him," the UK coach said. "I want him to do more defensively. I didn't have a problem with his offense."
Smith expressed himself, as Bogans recalled, "all screaming in your face" for two or three minutes.
"I can respond to things like that," UK's star guard said. "It makes me ready to play."
Bogans' scoring explosion, which included five three-pointers (one shy of his career high), helped UK break open a competitive game. LSU trailed only 58-50 with 10:52 left.
But the Tigers, who have only five healthy scholarship players, receded dramatically down the stretch. "They just collectively wore us down," LSU Coach John Brady said.
UK improved to 18-7 overall and 11-2 in the Southeastern Conference. LSU fell to 11-13 and 1-12.
"I challenged him at halftime," said Smith, who added that Bogans had had an indifferent week of practice. "He needed to pick it up, and he wasn't playing with the intensity and aggressiveness he needed to play with. Especially at the defensive end."
Though rejecting the suggestion that he'd been lulled into a let-Tayshaun-Prince-do-it mode, Bogans could not say why he did not play intently in the first half. "I was probably a little bit too relaxed," he said. "I didn't come out with that fight like I should."
Smith saw an almost immediate difference in the second half. On LSU's second possession, after the Tigers had closed to within 38-37 on the first, Bogans took a charge on Jermaine Williams. Not so coincidentally, Bogans said, at the other end he hit a three-pointer, which snowballed into a second-half shooting display that saw him make eight of 10 shots (five of six from three-point range).
"That got me ready to play," Bogans said of drawing the charge. "When I took that charge, that just got me on a roll. I was ready to do anything to help my team."
Kentucky got off to a fast start. Three-pointers by Gerald Fitch and Saul Smith gave the Cats a 6-0 lead in the first minute. Inside power by Jason Parker, who was going against a front line with only one player taller than 6-foot-6, pushed the lead to 16-9 with 14:39 left in the half. Parker scored seven of those points.
LSU, which had been competitive despite a 1-11 SEC record, did not go away. The Tigers controlled the tempo for much of the half.
The game shifted after a television timeout seven seconds later. UK switched to a zone. But LSU exploited the zone from the corners. Brian Beshara hit two three-pointers from the left corner and Collis Temple III hit another from the right corner. Temple's trey gave LSU its only lead, 28-27, with 4:46 left.
Prince countered with a three-pointer 26 seconds later. UK did not trail again.
Bogans scored 14 of UK's first 20 second-half points. His third three-pointer gave the Cats their first double-digit lead, 54-43, with 12:37 left.
UK needed Bogans because the half did not start with promise. Parker picked up his second and third fouls, then departed inside the first minute. Saul Smith went to the bench with his third foul at the 16:27 mark.
Jump-started by Bogans, Kentucky took charge in the second half. A double-digit Kentucky lead forced LSU to speed its play. Six straight scoreless possessions (four turnovers and two air balls) showed why the Tigers needed a slow pace throughout.
And Bogans showed what he can do when he revs up his motor.
"When I was younger, I'd have been so upset with myself with the way I played in the first half, I'd probably not played well at all," he said. "I'm a lot older. It doesn't affect me."
As for being the target of Smith's, uh, encouragement at halftime, Bogans said, "You've got to look at it as he's trying to help you. Not to make you mad. To make you play the type of basketball he knows you're capable of playing."