After No. 1 North Carolina spanked Kentucky Tuesday night, Tar Heel Coach Roy Williams noted the "load" Jodie Meeks carries for the Cats. Williams seemed to link that "load" to Meeks' 5-for-20 shooting night and career-high six turnovers.
But Meeks accepts the load, even craves the load.
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"I'm a junior now," he said Friday. "I definitely have a lot of responsibility for this team. It's not something I don't want. I like responsibility.
"My whole thing is you can't be afraid of failure."
So, like other players who aspire to team leadership, Meeks wants to not let a bad shooting night affect his psyche in future games.
"Five for 20 is not a great game," he said. "I have to keep my confidence."
Meeks' load might get heavier. He's practiced "a little bit" at point guard, Kentucky's weak link at this early stage of the season. He's willing to play the point even if that detracts from the perimeter scoring the Cats need to balance Patrick Patterson's production inside.
UK Coach Billy Gillispie did not speak of Meeks at the point. He noted how the team needs Meeks and Patterson to dominate in their individual matchups to help compensate for the point guard spot.
While Meeks had a poor statistical line at North Carolina, Gillispie noted how the junior from Norcross, Ga., gave exhausting effort, accepted the coach's challenge to become a "lock-down defender" and competed to the point of cramping.
"Jodie's going to carry a huge load for this team," Gillispie said. "We'd like to have a situation where he doesn't have to carry quite the load (he does). But it's probably not going to happen this year."
Teammate Perry Stevenson lauded the grace with which Meeks carries his load.
"If he feels the load, I really can't tell," Stevenson said. "Because he's a good player, and that's what good players do. If they feel the burden, they put the team on their back."
Surrendering offensive rebounds to North Carolina marred a solid defensive effort when Kentucky kept the game in half-court, five-on-five situations, Gillispie said.
"Sooner or later, I don't care how tough you are mentally, you give in a little bit," the UK coach said of the damage done by opponents grabbing offensive rebounds. North Carolina had 16.
"It's like letting the air out of our balloon," Stevenson said. "You've just got to inflate it again."
The Cats suggested that rebounding is more a want-to than a learn-to.
"We haven't done very well with it," Gillispie said. "For the most part, in one-on-one competition, we've gotten our tails beat."
Stevenson saw rebounding as a measure of toughness.
"I don't know of any technique you can teach to get your man to stop rebounding," he said. "It's all about being tough."
Junior-college transfer Kevin Galloway was supposed to be a prime contender for time at point guard. One thought was his experience might be an edge in the competition.
Yet Galloway hasn't gotten off the bench while point guards Michael Porter and DeAndre Liggins have combined for 17 assists and 20 turnovers in the season's first two games.
"He's turning the ball over too much in practice," Gillispie said of Galloway. "He's just trying to break bad habits."
While lamenting how some UK players are trying too hard to make spectacular plays, Gillispie said of Galloway, "His deal is not so much hitting home runs. He's just making the adjustment to the pace and physical nature of the game at this level."