John Clay

Meeks' shots were destined for bottom of hoop

John Clay
John Clay

KNOXVILLE — The amazing thing was how easy, how effortless Jodie Meeks made it all seem. There was nothing forced, nothing completely against the grain, nothing where you thought to yourself, "Wow, how did that go in the basket?" It wasn't one of those nights.

Instead, it was a night where the ball just seemed to ripple through the net like silk, where the ball never touched the rim, meeting its intended destination as if there were nothing else in the world that could possibly happen but that. Time after time after time.

Meanwhile, up in the stands at Thompson-Boling Arena, Patrick Patterson's mother, Tywanna, kept hitting Orestes Meeks in the back, screaming out, "How can you be so calm?"

The great thing about it is how it began to dawn on you that you were watching history, and not just history for any program, but the most storied program in college basketball, the one with all those wins, all those titles, all those great players.

None of those ever scored as many points as the 54 points Jodie Meeks scored Tuesday night in this 90-72 win over the Tennessee Volunteers.

Dan Issel had the previous record, 53, back on February 7, 1970, against Ole Miss. That's nearly 39 years.

"No," said C.M. Newton, the former coach and former UK athletics director, who was there to witness it in person. "No, I really haven't seen anything like it."

"I'm just overwhelmed," said Mr. Meeks, the proud father.

The eye-popping numbers go this way: Meeks scored 26 the first half, 28 the second. He made 15 of 22 shots, including a school-record 10 three-pointers in 15 attempts. He was a perfect 14-for-14 from the free-throw line, and we could be wrong here, but we don't remember a single time that a Meeks free throw even threatened to touch the rim.

Said Newton, in almost wonderment, "This youngster scored from everywhere."

And he played nearly every minute, 39 in all, and never once appeared to tire.

And, oh yes, Billy Gillispie, the Kentucky coach, would want us to mention that he also grabbed eight rebounds and contributed four assists.

In fact, on the biggest individual scoring night in UK history, the thing Gillispie talked about was how late in the second half, after Meeks had taken a somewhat questionable shot — and by questionable, we mean one that missed — the junior turned directly to the bench and said, "My bad."

"That tells you what kind of player he is," said Gillispie.

We're probably past due for a Jodie Meeks quote right here, but then that's the kind of kid, he is, too. He said he was happy for the win. He said to be mentioned in the same sentence with someone like Issel was "mind-boggling." He admitted the basket seemed "pretty big." He confirmed that he had his traditional breakfast of eggs and hash browns.

He's just too good to brag, or try to act like he did something really extraordinary. He didn't brag when he scored 46 on Appalachian State in Freedom Hall on Dec. 13. He didn't Tuesday night. He just scored the points, all those points, and left the color commentary to the mere mortals.

"Spectacularly magical," was the phrase teammate Patrick Patterson used, while admitting that at times the sophomore center caught himself watching the show.

"I caught myself watching him plenty of times," agreed Darius Miller, the freshman who gave key contributions as well. "But it didn't matter, because they all seemed to be going in."

That they did — shots so dead and pure, you were surprised at the few that didn't find the bottom of the basket, on a historic night when Jodie Meeks climbed to the top of a pretty prestigious list.

And made it look so easy.