Kentucky’s Win Is an Inside Job

Times Staff Writer

His surname is often mispronounced. But Marquis Estill (it’s ESS-stal) could have gone by O’Neal on Thursday night.

The burly Kentucky post player put on a Shaq-like display in a 63-57 victory over Wisconsin in a Midwest Regional semifinal at the Metrodome, muscling inside for 28 points.

Estill’s 18 shots all came from inside five feet and he made 12, backing in and barreling over a series of helpless Badger defenders whose only recourse was to foul. That isn’t something they are accustomed to -- Wisconsin committed fewer fouls than any team in the country.

But maybe a Hack-an-Estill strategy should have been employed earlier. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior made only four of 10 free throws.


“That was the whole game plan, to start off early getting the ball inside,” he said. “We knew they liked to front the post, and I was able to get the ball. My teammates did a great job getting me the ball.”

The career-best performance by Estill was necessary because Kentucky’s leading scorer, Keith Bogans, sat out the last 33 minutes because of a sprained left ankle. Running down the court late in the first half, Bogans slipped on a Penney -- Badger guard Kirk Penney -- and when the players got untangled Bogans was limping.

The incident seemed to affect Penney as well. He scored 17 points in the first half and four times gave the Badgers a lead with baskets. But he added only three points in the second half and Kentucky led the last 16 minutes. “There is more than just Kirk to our team, and I think we proved that,” Badger forward Mike Wilkinson said. “We were right in the game.”

Fifth-seeded Wisconsin (24-8) stayed with top-seeded Kentucky (32-3) by slowing the pace and defending well against everyone except Estill, the only Wildcat to score in double figures.

The uglier it got, the better it looked for the Badgers, but their last lead came on Penney’s last points, a long-range jump shot that made the score 40-38 with 15:30 to play.

The crowd was pro-Wisconsin, with Marquette and Pittsburgh fans cheering the Badgers along with the red-hued faithful. But the 28,168 could not drown out Kentucky and its spirited play. The Wildcats now have won 26 in a row.

Whether Bogans will be ready for Saturday’s game against Marquette is undetermined. An X-ray was negative.

“There is no crack or anything of that nature,” Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith said. “We know it’s a high ankle sprain. It’s just something he’s going to have to get treatment on and hopefully he’ll be ready.”