Date story published: Sunday, January 20, 2002
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Putting his faith in the law of averages, slump-ridden Keith Bogans believed he'd find his scoring touch sooner or later.
It turned out to be sooner as Bogans scored a season-high 23 points to help Kentucky win 72-65 at Notre Dame yesterday.
"I can't play as bad as I've been playing forever," Bogans said in describing his pre-game mindset. "I was playing terrible."
Notre Dame, which viewed beating No. 12 Kentucky as a means to returning to basketball prominence, had reason to expect the law of averages to be on its side. After all, the Irish limited UK All-America candidate Tayshaun Prince to nine points and the Cats to 42.6 percent shooting.
"I would have thought the game would be even closer than it was," Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said.
Kentucky, which improved to 12-4, won because of its own smothering second-half defense, waves of depth and -- surprise -- scoring from Bogans.
Bogans had made only 11 of 33 shots in the last four games, a stretch that brought this season's shooting to a career-low 40.4 percent. So his first shot, a three-point attempt that rattled in and out, brilliantly disguised what followed. He made eight of his next 10 shots (a season-high five of his next seven three-point attempts).
His fall-back jumper from the left side erased Notre Dame's last lead with 6:43 left in the first half.
And when the Irish closed within 56-48 at about the same juncture of the second half, Bogans took a fast-break pass and nailed a stop-and-pop three-pointer.
"That's more of a confidence shot: in transition, pull up and hit a three," he said. "I was feeling real good out there today."
UK Coach Tubby Smith did not credit a magic potion, special diet or divine intervention for Bogans' breakout. Instead, he cited a basketball truism: a favorable matchup.
"It was a good matchup for him being guarded by David Graves and Matt Carroll on the wing," Smith said. "He got good looks early."
The Bogans who stumbled and bumbled recently (four assists and eight turnovers in the last three games), moved with assuredness. Besides making a season-high eight shots (in 12 attempts), he had no turnovers and five rebounds in 33 minutes.
"Those guys were a little slower than I was," Bogans said of Graves, the Lexington Catholic graduate, and Carroll. "I felt I could put the ball down on the ground and go past them whenever I got ready.
"Other than that, it was my teammates finding me."
Prince, who made only three of 12 shots (one of six from three-point range), also noted Bogans' matchup. "We felt Keith was a little more athletic than those guys," Prince said.
Carroll, who not only matched Bogans shot for shot early but exceeded him, objected to the suggestion that the UK player used quickness.
"He just got good looks," said Carroll, who led Notre Dame with 18 points. "Most of his threes were stand-still threes. He's more a physical player than a quick guy. But he's good."
Brey noted quickness, if not necessarily in the matchup with Bogans, as the game's critical factor.
"I thought their athletic ability bothered us at times," he said. "Except for Chris (Thomas, a freshman point guard and Indiana high school Mr. Basketball last season), we're not the type of team with guys who can get their own shots."
For a while, the Irish got Carroll shots and he looked to be the player who would go from slumper to hero. Carroll, a 6-foot-6 junior, had made only two of nine shots (one of six from three-point range) in a loss at Syracuse Monday. Against Kentucky, Carroll hit five of his first six shots (three from beyond the arc) in scoring 13 straight points for Notre Dame. That spree gave the Irish their largest lead: 18-14 with 10:57 left.
"I'm a rhythm shooter," Carroll said. "I think I can score in bunches." But Carroll made only two more shots (and took only five) in the next 30 minutes.
"His arm probably got tired, he was making so many shots," Smith quipped.
But Carroll grounded the reason in basketball strategy. "In the second half, they didn't help off of me as much," he said.
Bogans cooled, but came up big at a critical moment. After Notre Dame got within 56-48, he hit the fast-break three-pointer. Then after an Irish turnover, he cruised to a fast-break dunk that put the Cats ahead 61-48 with 5:23 left.
Notre Dame got no closer than five down the stretch.
Afterward, Brey, like Bogans a graduate of the famed DeMatha High, sought out the UK guard.
"I grabbed him and said, 'You got us, you son of a gun,' " Brey said. "He's a man, a rough, physical presence. He did me in today."