Smith making changes to spur bench

December 11, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Tubby Smith says he's going to alter his substitution pattern to try and get more production from his bench players Saturday against Michigan State.

The Kentucky bench has been a non-factor in most games this season. Smith knows that has to change for the Wildcats to become a championship-caliber team.

"We've got to get more production," said Smith Wednesday. "I guess I have to have the nerve to play them a little longer and give them a chance. It's hard to be productive when you go in and come right back out.

"We need to work on who comes in when. We probably need to sub a bigger guy for a guard instead of a guard for a guard. That creates more of a mismatch."


Smith said as he reviewed UK's 52-50 win over UCLA, he noticed that it might have been better to bring in 7-foot freshman Lukasz Obrzut as the first reserve instead of Brandon Stockton as he did when point guard Cliff Hawkins came out.

"If I put Lukasz in and move Gerald (Fitch) to the point, it would give us a different look. Instead, I brought in Brandon and it made us even smaller," Smith said. "I'm going to substitute to make us bigger and change our look. That would let Chuck (Hayes) move back to the 3 (small forward) spot he played last year. But it's critical that we get more playing time for some guys and get some production."

Michigan State (3-3) features 6-11 sophomore center Paul Davis. However, the Spartans are also expected to basically start four guards with him.

UCLA limited Kentucky to 27 percent shooting - the worst in the Tubby Smith era at UK - by limiting easy shots. After trying to deny the ball inside early to Hayes and Erik Daniels, UCLA's bigger defenders then played behind the two, let them catch the pass and prevented them from scoring over them.

That kept UCLA's perimeter players from having to leave any UK player open on the outside.

"We threw the ball in the post 28 or 30 times. We scored zero times. It was a black hole," Smith said. "It was pretty much a breakdown on our offense."

Hayes, Cliff Hawkins, Fitch and Antwain Barbour combined to go 6-for-36 from the field. Smith said 25 of those misses were bad shots.

"First, they did not go in," Smith said when asked why they were bad shots. "Second, we did take some contested shots. There are a lot of reasons why they were bad shots. Guys trying to create shots off the dribble was the biggest reason (for the bad shots)."

Tryinig to "revamp and tweak" the offense

Smith said the Wildcats are still trying to "revamp and tweak" their offense to compensate for the loss of Keith Bogans and Marquis Estill, last year's two top scorers.

"We have to make the offense fit our personnel better," Smith said. "Chuck and Erik (Daniels) are not going to score with their back to the basket on bigger guys. They're just not going to do it."

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo doesn't see as many offensive flaws in No. 8 Kentucky as Smith does.

"I love them. I like the way Tubby has adjusted to his smaller lineup," Izzo said.

Izzo said he knew Fitch and Hayes could play because they were among the final 16 players on the Pan-American team he coached this summer.

Hayes made the final roster and Fitch probably would have if a groin injury had not sidelined him.

"They get points off defense, they don't take bad shots, their big men are good passers. It is a team that you do wonder what it will do when it runs up against a team with bigger people," Izzo said. "But I love Tubby's team and the way they play."

Both coaches are looking forward to being part of a game that should set a new college basketball attendance record.

About 75,000 fans are expected at Ford Field, the home of the NFL's Detroit Lions, for Saturday's game.

"I'm hoping this game lives up to its billing," Izzo said. "This is not a game that was set up just to break a record. This is one of the few programs I would have done this against.

"Number one, their fans are so good and will help fill the place. Number two, I did not want to give up a home game, but this is a chance to have an event that will be a memory-maker. I tell our guys we are here to build a memory and this will be a hell of a memory."

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