UK Men's Basketball

UK launches campaign for Meeks as national player of the year

With two weeks left in the regular season, Kentucky launched a campaign on behalf of Jodie Meeks' candidacy for national player of the year awards.

That effort included a splash on the school's official Web site (ukathletics.com) and establishing a link to all things Meeks at ukathletics.com/jodie23/.

The site features a highlight reel, a biographical sketch and media coverage that includes radio calls of some of his plays.

On Friday, starting at 1 p.m., fans can "talk" with Meeks in an Internet chat room. The chat will be on the UK athletics blog, Cat Scratches.

UK Coach Billy Gillispie endorsed Meeks as a worthy candidate for player of the year awards.

"I doubt anyone has had more responsibility offensively and defensively, on and off the court," the UK coach said at a Tuesday news conference. "I've not been around a guy who won more games for us. Just won more games for us."

Gillispie suggested that Meeks, who ranks third nationally in scoring at 25.4 points per game, hasn't had as much help from teammates as some of the other candidates for player of the year awards.

"I'm proud of all our players," Gillispie said before adding, "As far as penetration-and-pitch point guards, I bet he hasn't had five penetration and pitches where somebody forced help and pitched to him."

While noting how Meeks encourages his teammates, Gillispie pondered what this season would be like without the high-scoring guard.

"We would have figured out something," the UK coach said. "But it would have been 10 times more difficult."

Also on Tuesday, Meeks was among three Southeastern Conference players selected to a 30-man list of mid-season candidates for the 2009 Naismith Award, which goes to the national player of the year.

The other two SEC players on the list are Florida guard Nick Calathes and South Carolina guard Devan Downey.

Going into the South Carolina game Wednesday night, Meeks is three three-pointers shy of Travis Ford's single-season UK record. Ford hit 101 threes (in 191 attempts) in 1992-93. Meeks has 98 (in 224 tries).

Gamecocks drooping?

In the last three games, South Carolina lost to Mississippi State and barely beat two of the lesser lights in the SEC's Western Division, Arkansas (overtime) and Alabama (by two points).

"Everybody's good in this league," Downey said. "The worst team in the East, West, whatever, they're still a good basketball team."

Free throws

South Carolina has a knack for winning close games. But if it comes down to free-throw shooting, the odds favor UK. The Cats lead all teams in accuracy from the line (77.8 percent) in league play. South Carolina ranks 11th at 59.1 percent.

In beating Arkansas in overtime last weekend, the Gamecocks made six of six free throws in the final seconds.

"We've done that some other times this year," Coach Darrin Horn said, before telling reporters, "You guys can keep harping on that if you want. I'm going to quit answering those (questions), to be honest with you."

Oops

Downey is not a finalist for the Cousy Award, given to the nation's top point guard. That's because South Carolina did not nominate him.

Horn apologized to Downey.

Pressure

With first place on the line, Downey suggested South Carolina feels no pressure.

"Regardless of what anybody's going to say, we're probably still going to be the underdog against Kentucky," he said. "Everybody feels like we stole one in Rupp (Arena). So we're just going to come out and play. No pressure on us at all."

Etc.

South Carolina reserve Evaldas Baniulis made four three-pointers and scored 14 points against Arkansas. "If I hit my first three, my confidence level is going to go up right away," he said. ... Dave Baker and Barry Booker will call the game for the SEC network.

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