John Clay

Meeks inheriting too much

He's carrying it all on his shoulders. You can almost see him thinking it, you certainly can see him doing it.

Jodie Meeks scored 39 points against VMI in the opener. He scored 37 against Kansas State. Without a doubt he is Kentucky's perimeter game, the Cats' Mr. Outside.

Trouble is, to win in college basketball, you have to have a Mr. Inside, too. Kentucky has one of those, a terrific one of those, a 6-foot-9 sophomore named Patrick Patterson, who can muscle it up and in under the basket, or hit the short turnaround jumper. He's one of the country's best.

Trouble is, this year you might not know it. A good Mr. Inside is a terrible thing to waste.

So when the Cats can't get it to Mr. Inside, then Mr. Outside shoots. And on days when he can't buy a basket to save his life, when he's making just four of 17 tries, just two of 12 three-pointers, as Meeks did in Kentucky's 73-67 loss to Miami in Rupp Arena on Saturday, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Like a loss.

"He just missed a bunch of shots," said Gillispie of Meeks. "When you're lethargic offensively, and not moving the ball like you need to, not carrying out assignments against a zone when you should be getting the ball exactly where you want to, that's what's going to happen when you take guarded shots. People don't make guarded shots. We were foolish to take those shots."

Sometimes shooters who miss foolish shots end up sitting to start the second half, as Meeks did, with DeAndre Liggins taking his place.

"I wanted to try something different," Gillispie said. "We were 20 points down."

Kentucky fought back from that 46-26 halftime deficit. It carved the margin to four with five minutes left but could get no closer. It was a valiant cause, but one in vain. The decision was made the first 20 minutes.

"You look after the game and Jodie's got 17 shots and DeAndre's got 15 and Patrick's got 13," Gillispie said. "(Patrick's) shooting 71 percent from the field. It doesn't take too much to figure out who ought to be getting the ball all the time, and play inside-out."

Stat: To this point in the season, Patterson is taking an average of one shot every 3.08 minutes on the floor. To this point, Meeks is taking an average of one shot every 2.04 minutes on the floor.

That's not Meeks' fault. There are only 35 seconds on the shot clock. Someone has to take a shot. Yes, Liggins played well in the second half Saturday, but in the first half the Cats' offense suffered from a lack of direction.

A good point guard attacks the Miami zone. He gets the ball where it needs to be. He has the vision to see the open spaces. The Cats don't have that vision right now. As a result, Meeks got 11 first-half shots. Patterson took four.

What they do have is a shooter, so Meeks shoots. Before you harp that the junior made just two three-point attempts, out of 12, his teammates were 0-for-11.

"I think I have a big role in the offense, but I don't think it's all on me," said Meeks afterward. "When I have a poor night like this, there has to be someone who can pick it up and score."

That could be Darius Miller, a humble freshman who could use a shot of the assertiveness that experience brings. That could be Perry Stevenson, the junior inside who shows his lack of confidence by passing up good shots. That could be any number of Cats.

"At the same time," Meeks said, "we need to get it into Patrick more."

"We're all 100 percent behind Jodie and we're all confident he's going to hit the jump shot," Patterson said. "But I just think that sometimes we need to look on to ourselves a little more often, whether it's me demanding the ball inside more, or DeAndre pushing the ball or driving to the basket more instead of taking a jump shot, or Darius believing and having more confidence to finish around the basket."

Something to make the load a bit lighter.