- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

SYRACUSE, N.Y. Sometimes trying harder is not the best solution.

Keith Bogans had done that, having heaped pressure on himself as he struggled mightily through a junior campaign that he had begun with lofty expectations. He had his good games: 23 points against Notre Dame, 20 against Florida. He had his poor games: 1-for-9 shooting against North Carolina, 2-for-10 in a loss to Georgia.

There were too many moments this season when Bogans looked nothing like the player who averaged 17.0 points and was a second-team All-SEC pick last season, and who entered his name in the NBA Draft before withdrawing it before the deadline.

No, the junior shooting guard, looked like a shell of himself; his confidence was diminished, and he was pressing. Sometimes he took a lot of shots and missed most of them and sometimes he took only a handful. He averaged 11.5 points this season.

But when it has really mattered, in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, Bogans found his shooting stroke. He scored 21 and 19 points in Kentucky's two victories and made six of 10 3-point attempts, has regained some confidence and has reasserted himself as a formidable second option to star forward Tayshaun Prince.

Once again, Bogans, who has averaged 17.6 points in seven career NCAA tournament games, is a player of whom Maryland must be wary in tonight's second East Region semifinal at Syracuse's Carrier Dome..

"I've had the same approach [recently] I've had all year," Bogans said. "Throughout the year, I didn't really knock down any shots. Now, my shots are starting to fall. I just stayed positive, and my teammates stayed positive with me they never got down, kept me up and never let me get down on myself."

Bogans' patience might have allowed him to pull through his slump. Assistant coach Reggie Hanson said up until the NCAA tournament opener against Valparaiso, Bogans' personality never changed and he never stopped working to get his game back to the level it had been.

"At the beginning of the year, I'm sure he was thinking because of the year he had last year, [of] trying the NBA, in his mind, he was thinking, 'I've got to do it this year,'" Hanson said. "He was putting too much pressure on himself. The great thing about it is now he's relieved himself of that pressure, and he can go out and just play ball.

"Once you go into a slump, it all becomes mental. It becomes to where you think about everything instead of just reacting. He had a tough time getting out of that," Hanson said.

As the Wildcats' second-best scorer behind Prince, Bogans plays a crucial role in their success. Maryland surely will give Prince as many different looks as it can in an attempt to frustrate the swingman, who erupted for 41 points in a second-round victory against Tulsa. That puts the onus on Bogans to take more of the scoring load.

"When I penetrate and dish and [Keith] can knock down that shot, it takes a little pressure off me," Prince said.

Bogans' intensity will get especially cranked up tonight because of the matchup with the Terps; he is from Alexandria and shared the DeMatha High School backcourt with Joe Forte of the Boston Celtics. Yesterday, with a smile, Bogans said, "It's like playing against [a home team], so I'm just looking forward to it."

Bogans never seriously considered attending Maryland, though the Terps did try to recruit him. He said yesterday that he wanted to go away to college, not play at a university that was down the street from his high school, or any other in the area.

If Bogans' previous games against Maryland are any indication the teams played twice in 1999-2000, his freshman season he might continue his streak of impressive play. He scored 17 points in a defeat of Maryland in the Preseason NIT and 14 in a loss at College Park.

Kentucky has had more than its share of controversy this season, with player transfers, suspensions and internal squabbles that nearly tore the team apart at more than one point. Bogans, too, has had his struggles, but they're all behind him now.

"He, like the whole team, figured out March is a way to have a breath of fresh air, a new start, and I think that's the way he's approached it as kind of a new season," said Wildcats' senior J.P. Blevins.


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