Smith's challenge to Bogans ignited Kentucky's win streak

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky coach Tubby Smith was angry, and he let senior guard Keith Bogans know.

It was Jan. 14, early in the conference season, and the Wildcats trailed Vanderbilt 36-28 at halftime. Behind closed doors, Smith ripped the players, focusing much of his wrath at Bogans.

As Bogans put it: "He knows once he gets in my face, that gets the other guys going."

It sure did.

The Wildcats came out with an overwhelming defensive effort in the second half, allowing Vanderbilt just four baskets after the break en route to a 74-52 rout.

That was the sixth straight victory in what has become a nation-leading 16-game winning streak for No. 2-ranked Kentucky (22-3, 12-0 Southeastern Conference).

And the Wildcats haven't come close to losing since that game against Vanderbilt, winning by an average of 17 points over the likes of Notre Dame, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi State.

Kentucky will go for its 17th consecutive win today against Tennessee (15-8, 7-5).

"What's keeping us going is that nobody's on his own individual thing," Bogans said. "It's all about the team, and everybody's trusting one another, believing in one another."

That helps when it comes to defense, a big reason for Kentucky's run. In SEC action, Kentucky leads the league in scoring defense (58 points per game), field goal percentage defense (40 percent) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (28 percent).

Bogans credits team chemistry for the success, saying players are friends, no one hogs the spotlight and there's no trace of the internal bickering that hurt last year's 22-10 team.

Another big reason that Kentucky is on course for a No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament, of course, is Bogans. He leads the team in scoring average (16.4), assists (74), and steals (33).

"In the past, I've been caught up getting down about not making a shot or letting a play bother me, instead of just playing through it," he said. "This year, I told myself to just put the team first and everything else will fall into place. So far, that's how it's been."

The team's togetherness was on full display as the reserves closed out a 70-55 rout of then-No. 1 Florida on Feb. 4.

"I don't think there's a most valuable player on this team," senior center Marquis Estill said. "Everybody's playing well, everybody's contributing, no matter when they come into the game."

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