VAUGHT: Sheppard offers insight

Sometimes a player can offer an insight into what makes a coach successful that those of us watching from the outside just don't have.<br><br> Jeff Sheppard recently did that for me.

Sheppard was the star of UK's 1998 national championship run and was named most valuable player in the Final Four. However, it didn't look like UK was going to win the national title when it trailed Utah by 10 points at halftime of the championship game.

That's when Sheppard said Tubby Smith told his team he knew it was going to win even though no team had ever come from that far behind at halftime before in the national title to win.

"Coach Smith told us he noticed something as both teams ran off the floor at halftime," Sheppard said. "He said, 'The team that is winning looks like it is losing and the team that is losing looks like it is winning.' He told us it was all about attitude and still believing we could win.

"Utah had a lot of talent, but they had a bad attitude. They were already tired and had their heads down at halftime even though they had the lead. Coach Smith said he saw that we still had a winning attitude and believed we were going to win the game."

Give the Cats credit at the time for realizing Smith was not just trying to pump enthusiasm into the team. They realized he was telling them the truth because of their past experiences together. Remember, two games earlier the Cats had staged that dramatic comeback to beat Duke to reach the Final Four.

"We didn't come into the dressing room looking for excuses or blaming anyone for being behind," Sheppard said. "We came in to listen to what coach Smith had to say and when he pointed out what he saw as he left the floor, we knew right then we were going to win."

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