MINNEAPOLIS -- Kentucky guard Keith Bogans started the
Midwest Regional final against Marquette on Saturday, wearing a
protective brace on his sprained left ankle.
Bogans, who missed the second half of Thursday night's semifinal win over Wisconsin after injuring his ankle in a collision with the Badgers' Kirk Penney, was unable to practice Friday.
But after hours of treatment, he took the floor at the Metrodome. Bogans, a 6-foot-5 senior, is Kentucky's leading scorer at 15.7 points a game, as well as the floor leader for the Wildcats.
"If it's up to me, I'm gonna gut it out," Bogans said Friday. "I'm not going to sit. It hurt to watch yesterday."
When the Wildcats returned for the second half Thursday, Bogans remained in the locker room. Trainers tried re-taping his ankle, but the pain was simply too great for Bogans to play. He limped to the bench and spent the rest of the game as a cheerleader. It marked the first time in Bogans' memory that he didn't play because of an injury.
He spent the postgame with an ice pack on his ankle and received more ice treatment Friday. But Bogans was merely a spectator at practice and the Wildcats said they were preparing for the Marquette game as if the SEC player of the year will be unavailable or severely limited.
"It's a high ankle sprain," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said Friday. "That can be a real bad thing. I've seen guys go a month without doing anything. He's able to put pressure on his foot and raise up on his toe. That's a good sign."
"He brought a lot of scoring," said junior guard Gerald Fitch. "Guys are going to have to step their games up. I'm going to have to look to do more scoring."
Depending on Bogans' availability, Fitch will take his place as the off-guard, while junior Cliff Hawkins will play point. With or without Bogans, the game plan will be the same.
"Right now, our focus is feeding the big man," said sophomore forward Chuck Hayes. "Marquis, without a doubt, is the first option."
That would be senior Marquis Estill, the low post player who is emerging as a star of this NCAA Tournament. He scored a career-high 28 points in the win against Wisconsin, had 18 a game earlier against Utah and 13 in the easy first-round win against IUPUI. In the three tournament games Estill is 27 of 39 from the field. The Badgers tried guarding him one-on-one and it was a mini-disaster.
If Marquette makes the same decision?
"If they don't (double-team) it's going to be a long night for them," Estill said.
It might be a long night for Bogans too, especially if he has to spend it sitting on the bench. "But I don't want to get out there and hurt my team," he said.
Whatever happens, Bogans says he thinks the Wildcats will be fine.
"I think they showed that (against Wisconsin)," he said. "I've got faith in my team."
Some Marquette players said they'd be disappointed if Bogans didn't play.
"I'm quite sure he'll suck it up,'' forward Robert Jackson said. "I just want them to be full force when they play us. I'm a
great player, and I like playing against great players. We don't want no easy road to the Final Four."
Said guard Travis Diener: "We want their team to be at their best, and we want our team to be at our best."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.