UK Men's Basketball

Gillispie denies reining in Meeks at Florida

Before suggesting that leading scorer Jodie Meeks was about to stage another scoring explosion, Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie denied that he prevented such an outburst at Florida on Saturday.

After the game, Florida freshman Ray Shipman told The Miami Herald that Meeks had said he was under orders not to shoot down the stretch of the second half.

When asked on a Southeastern Conference teleconference on Monday if he issued such an order, Gillispie said, "Uh, no. Absolutely not."

Then the UK coach added, "I think if you see him this year (you see) he's pretty much had the green light."

Meeks goes into this week's SEC Tournament as the league's leading scorer during the regular season in all games (24.7 ppg) and in league play (24.9).

Coincidentally or not, Meeks took only two shots in the final 10 minutes at Florida. One was a three-point throw to avoid a 35-second shot clock violation. The other also had a tinge of desperation: a pull-up jumper on the baseline inside the final minute with UK trailing by eight.

That completed a 6-for-18 shooting afternoon that continued the recent cooling off in Meeks' shooting. Since scoring a Bud Walton Arena record 45 points at Arkansas on Valentine's Day, he's made only 37.2 percent of his shots (38 of 102) and 26.5 percent of his three-point attempts (13 of 49).

"He hasn't made as many shots or as high a percentage of shots," Gillispie said. "But I think it all really goes back to how much we're helping him. Everybody's doing a really good job making it really, really difficult for him to score, for him to get easy touches where he wants to get touches. ...

"I think he's on top of a big breakout game."

If it comes on Thursday in the SEC Tournament, it will come against the team that first put a large emphasis on containing Meeks.

Heading to Ole Miss on Jan. 24, Kentucky had a 5-0 record in SEC play. Meeks averaged 31 points in those games, making 52.9 percent of his shots (an even better 53.3 percent from beyond the three-point line).

Ole Miss took Meeks' school-record 54 points at Tennessee two weeks earlier as a warning. Contain Meeks or risk a similar embarrassment.

As Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy said on the Monday teleconference, "We have to game plan according to his ability. If you just play him straight up like he's a normal player, then he's going to make you pay dearly."

At Oxford, Meeks made only four of 15 shots (three of 10 from three-point range). He did not make a basket in the first half, which prompted ESPN sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards' now-famous question to Gillispie: More or less asking how important it would be to get Meeks going.

Curiously, Gillispie brushed off the "bad question," which sprouted a tempest of criticism directed at the UK coach.

"We did a reasonably good job containing Meeks," Kennedy said.

Although Meeks has cooled off in the face of determined defense, Kennedy saw no reason to turn down the defensive heat directed at UK's Player of the Year candidate.

"Not Thursday," the Ole Miss coach said. "He's still a prolific scorer. I think he's as good a two-guard as there is in college basketball. ...

"We will do as best we can to limit his touches because when he has the ball, you're at his mercy."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments