Sunday, December 14, 2003

Obrzut starts to break out

Kentucky notebook: Seven-footer contributes quality minutes for UK

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DETROIT - Late in the first half Saturday, Kentucky was beaten badly on back-to-back possessions when it had four reserves in the game.

Coach Tubby Smith yanked them and yelled at his bench, "If you give us a lift sometime, it could be a big help."

Finally, someone responded. Freshman center Lukasz Obrzut contributed 13 solid minutes, nine of them in the second half, in the longest and most important stint of his young career.

"It might not show up on the stat sheet, but he did a lot of good things," junior forward Chuck Hayes said of Obrzut.

The 7-foot-1 Obrzut scored a career-high four points and added a rebound and a blocked shot. More importantly, he spelled Erik Daniels, who was saddled with foul trouble and an upset stomach.

"That was key," Smith said of Obrzut's play. "It gave us more size. He did an adequate job on (Michigan State's Paul) Davis. ... He's learning to use his body."

The development of a reliable reserve in the post - possibly Obrzut - is one of the season's critical issues.

"I was feeling great, doing my best," Obrzut said. "This was my chance to let Coach trust me.

"I can see what's waiting for me (later this season), what I need to be ready for."

RECORD CROWD: As expected, the "BasketBowl" set a world basketball attendance record: 78,129. The setup, placing the court at the 50-yard line as opposed to tucking the floor in a corner of the football field, was well-received by the teams.

"Whoever arranged it, they did a magnificent job," Smith said.

The basketball seating capacity was 69,700, but the attendance figure included Ford Field suite holders, media and game workers.

The previous world record was 75,000, set on Aug. 21, 1951, during a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition played in Berlin's Olympic Stadium. The previous NCAA record was 68,112, for a Notre Dame-Louisiana State game on Jan. 20, 1990, in the Louisiana Superdome.

"Now we're in the record books. It feels good," Hayes said.

The big-game atmosphere idea originated when an Elvin Hayes-led Houston team beat Lew Alcindor-led UCLA 71-69 on Jan. 20, 1968, a game that drew 52,693 to the Astrodome and was the first nationally televised regular-season collegiate game.

CAT TALES: Gerald Fitch's 25 points give him 1,023 for his career, making him the 50th UK player to reach 1,000. ... Former Wildcats Tayshaun Prince and Rex Chapman attended.

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