Sheray Thomas, playing against All-American Brandon Bass @ LSU in the Deaf Dome in Baton Rouge, played only six minutes in a reserve role. But in those six minutes, he was a very active freshman playing in a tough situation on the road, and scored six points (2-3 shooting), and pulled down four rebounds, two offensive and two defensive. His reserve role in that game proved key to a UK 70-64 win on the road.
Lukasz "Woo" Obrzut, playing against a big Notre Dame front line that worried Coach Smith before the game, stepped up in an important road game. While his stats were not eye-popping, Obrzut played 14 serviceable minutes to help ease the size difference and allow Chuck Hayes and Erik Daniels to rest 15 minutes. Obrzut managed four points (2-4), two rebounds, one assist and one steal in an overall good outing against the Irish big men to help # 9 Kentucky to a 71-63 road victory over the Irish.
Bobby Perry contribued 16 minutes playing against guys like Ronnie Brewer and Jonathan Modica for the Razorbacks Perry scored five points (including 1-1 from 3pt range), grabbed two rebounds, dished one assist, had one steal, and one blocked shot as Kentucky rolled over the Hawgs 73-56.
As Kentucky sophomores
Bobby Perry was Kentucky's best player in a battle of Top 10 squads pitting # 2 Kansas against Kentucky. Perry scored 10 points (4-8) and grabbed seven rebounds in only 15 stellar minutes of play. Kentucky fell to Kansas that day, 65-59, but the whole world saw him perform, while other stars--such as Kelenna Azubuike (4-16), Randolph Morris (0-8), Patrick Sparks (4-13), and Chuck Hayes (4-11) could not step up to the task.
Who could forget Lukasz Obrzut's outstanding performance against Andrew Bogut of Utah, the nation's # 1 big man, in the NCAA tournament. Obrzut held his own against the big fellow, forcing Bogut to shoot well under 50% for the day, and wore him out. While Obrzut was only 2-3 (4 pts) on the day, he also grabbed five rebounds, and his 20 minutes of play were integral to UK winning 62-52 in the NCAA tournament.
In a game where Kentucky was left for dead, losing leader Chuck Hayes in an ambulance after only 11 minutes of PT in Knoxville, TN, Sheray Thomas stepped up huge against more-heralded big men Major Wingate and Scooter McFadgon. Thomas played 21 big minutes, scoring seven, pulling down seven rebounds, dishing one assist, with one steal, and only one turnover against the vaunted Knoxville press, leading Kentucky to an impressive 84-62 win over the Vols. Thomas combined with Bobby Perry for 15 points and 14 rebounds in the victory).
As Kentucky juniors
Most UK fans remember Bobby Perry's 25-point, 10-10 FT effort against UAB in the NCAA tournament, or his 20-point performance against U Conn in the next round of the NCAA tournament. But what may have been most memorable was his play down the stretch against Alabama in the SEC tournament, scoring 13 points and grabbing nine boards, and not allowing UK to lose that ballgame. Perry's willpower caused the comeback win in that game, a huge win for the 'Cats.
Sheray Thomas also had a big game against U Conn in the NCAA tourney where he poured in 10 points on 3-4 shooting. But instead, we'll go with Thomas in another big rivalry game, this time, against cross-state Louisville. That was a game that UK was given little chance of winning against the # 4 Louisville Cardinals, and his 11 points, six rebounds,one block, 0 turnover performance against UL pressure helped lead UK to the 73-61 victory.
For Lukasz Obrzut, aka "Woo, the Card killer," we'll look to the same game. With no Randolph Morris while he served an NCAA mandated suspension, Obrzut wasn't a big scorer in the game, but his four points, nine rebounds, and very good defense on heralded David Padgett in 30 minutes of play helped make sure "This is Our State."
The final hurrah--as Kentucky seniors
While the final chapter has not yet been written on the seniors' careers at UK, 28 games, including 19 wins, are already filed. Here's a look at some of their ocntributions so far.
The one issue that Kentucky fans feared all season is Randolph Morris getting in foul trouble. That exact scenario played out early against the Cardinals, and Lukasz Obrzut stepped up early. With Morris limited in playing time, and only scoring two points, Obrzut notched 26 minutes of playing time against the Cardinals, scoring scoring six on 3-5 shooting, grabbing five rebounds, blocking one shot, and committing no turnovers. What may have been just as important, though was "the speech"--the adopted Kentuckian from Poland rallied his teammates at halftime, with a "This is OUR state" motivational "speech" that kept the 'Cats moving toward a 61-49 victory, marking three out of four victories the three seniors logged against the intrastate rivals.
It wasn't Sheray Thomas' most productive game this season, but it may have been the most important. Inserted into the lineup in a 3-point ballgame with the clock winding down, Coach Tubby Smith instructed the senior, I told him to get a rebound," Smith said of his instructions to Thomas during the animated substitution. "I said, 'Can you get us a rebound? That's what you do best. Use your toughness.' He went through two guys to get it." The senior responded with the tough rebound off a three-point shot that would have tied the game, effectively securing the 59-54 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers.
In the same ballgame, fellow senior Bobby Perry showed his toughness. In the low-scoring outing, Perry contributed a double-double in points and rebounds, notching 11 points and 10 rebounds in 24 vital minutes in the victory over the Hoosiers.