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NCAA Basketball: Kentucky finds a new ace in win against spirited Badgers

Friday, March 28, 2003

By Phil Axelrod, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- The power of the Cheeseheads couldn't overcome the power of Kentucky's Marquis Estill.

Kentucky went to him early and often, and Estill, a 6-foot-9, 236-pound senior, responded with a career-high 28 points and six rebounds to lead the Wildcats to a 63-57 victory against Wisconsin last night in the Midwest Region of the NCAA tournament.

Estill, who averages 11 points, shouldered the offensive load because Kentucky played the second half without Keith Bogans, its leading scorer. Bogans, a 6-5 senior, was fighting for a loose ball in the first half and emerged from a tangle of players with a high sprain of his left ankle.

"We're not sure the extent of his injury. He had an X-ray and nothing is broken," Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith said. "He's going to get treatment and, hopefully, he'll be ready Saturday."

Top-seeded Kentucky (32-3), the Southeastern Conference champion and winner of 26 consecutive games, will meet Pitt or Marquette in the final tomorrow at the Metrodome.

Kentucky held off a spirited challenge by No. 5 Wisconsin (24-8), an underdog from the Big Ten.

Estill made 12 of 18 attempts from the field to generate the only consistent offense for the Wildcats, for whom no one else scored in double digits.

"That was the whole game plan, get the ball inside," Estill said. "My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball."

The loss of Bogans hurt Kentucky more than the loss of numbers he puts up on a regular basis.

The Badgers weren't in awe of the Wildcats as Kirk Penney, a 6-5 senior, scored 17 of his team-high 20 points in the first half. He couldn't shake free from Kentucky's Chuck Hayes and managed only three shots in the second half, making a 3-pointer in the early going.

It didn't take Kentucky long to clarify what it wanted to do: Clear out for Estill and let him overpower smaller and weaker defenders.

Estill wasted little time.

Thirteen seconds into the game, he received a lob pass and put down a two-handed dunk. Before he was through in the first half, Estill made hooks from the baseline and lane, powered in layups and added two free throws for 15 points.

With Estill leading the charge, Kentucky wiped out a seven-point deficit to take a 32-28 lead at intermission.

Wisconsin's one-man answer to Estill was Penney, who has traveled the globe playing basketball for his homeland, New Zealand. He was superb against Kentucky, badgering the Wildcats with four 3-pointers, a slashing drive down the middle with a finger-roll lay-in and three free throws for 17 points.

The patient pace favored Wisconsin, but Kentucky's relentless defensive pressure took its toll in the final minutes of the first half with a brace of steals that were converted into baskets.

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