- Saturday, December 13 2003 -
Basketbowl (at Detroit, MI)
Kentucky - 79 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 8th by AP and 2nd by ESPN/USA Today]
Michigan State - 74 (Head Coach: Tom Izzo) - [Ranked 21st by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 49, Michigan State 43
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|UCLA 52 - 50|||||Indiana 80 - 41|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Record crowd sees UK pull out another win
DETROIT, Mich. - Kentucky is college basketball royalty and on the sport's grandest stage for a game, the Cats showed once again how they became the winningest program of all time.
Despite seeing a 15-point first half lead disappear, UK (5-0) never let Michigan State grab the lead in front of a heavily pro-Spartans world record crowd of 78,129, holding off State for a 79-74 victory.
"It's willing ourselves to win," sophomore forward Kelenna Azubuike said. "We have a lot of competitors who hate to lose. That showed (against MSU)."
While the spectacle of the game ruled all the pregame talk, the Cats and Spartans played yet another terrific game. UK jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the first two minutes, then used an 8-2 run to silence the State crowd and take a 34-19 lead.
From there, the game settled into a typical UK-Michigan State slugfest with the standard suffocating defense and intense physical play. Michigan State slowly whittled the lead down to 49-43 at halftime.
When the teams came out for the second half, the lights in Ford Field were off because of a halftime laser show, forcing a 10-minute delay. The stoppage didn't seem to bother either team much, as UK opened the lead back up to 10.
True to form, State answered back and pulled within two with 10 minutes remaining. With momentum on State's side, UK coach Tubby Smith called a timeout to settle the Cats down after three consecutive turnovers. Coming out of the timeout, Cliff Hawkins hit the first of several huge shots UK would drill when State got close enough, draining a three-pointer from the top of the key.
The Spartans kept coming at UK, getting as close as they would get since the game was tied at two when Paul Davis hit two free throws at 8:21 left. Once again, UK answered with two Gerald Fitch free throws and then perhaps the single biggest play of the game from Chuck Hayes.
Leading by three, Hawkins tried another three but missed badly. Although the Spartans had UK blocked out, Hayes somehow back-tipped the ball to Hawkins, who swung it the Fitch on the wing. Fitch promptly buried the three to give UK a six-point cushion.
"I knew I wasn't going to be able to get to (the rebound)," Hayes said. "It was a big risk because they could run out, but I took my chances and it landed in Cliff's hands and Gerald hit a big three."
Hayes provided two more crucial plays in the final minutes, saving a rebound off a missed State free throw by calling a timeout and then rolling in a short hook shot over Davis to stretch UK's lead to 76-72 with 45.6 seconds left.
"It felt like it took two days to go down," Hayes said with a sly smile.
However long it took, the shot went and UK survived another brutal battle with Michigan State. For the second straight week, the Cats held off one of college basketball's premier programs in front of a hostile crowd, just like they did all last season.
"We are war tested," Smith said. "We've been hardened by the wars of the SEC and the type of schedule we play. We aren't intimidated by this kind of atmosphere."
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo may have summed it up best.
"They made the plays down the stretch and we did not and that is what it comes down to," Izzo said.
Making plays Ð it's just what UK basketball does.
Lukasz Obrzut scores inside
Erik Daniels shoots over MSU's Paul Davis
Michigan State's Shannon Brown (#3) drives to the basket