John Clay

Cats can't count on 54 every night

John Clay
John Clay

The upside to Jodie Meeks scoring 54 points in a college basketball game turned out to be an endless ESPN highlight loop, a flood of player-of-the-year mentions, a terrific Ryan Parker song, over 2,000 sign-ups for a Facebook fan page, and the most positive publicity for Kentucky basketball in at least five years.

The downside?

Jodie Meeks is not going to score 54 points every game.

Seriously.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but while Meeks may score 30 points, or 40, when the Cats play at Georgia on Sunday, chances are Kentucky's newest point machine is not going to put the ball in the basket at quite the clip he did Tuesday night at Rocky Top.

Therefore, there must be an alternate plan.

A friend and Boston Celtics fan related to me the story of the 1969 NBA Finals when the great Jerry West scored 53 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a two-point win over Boston in the opening game. Yet the Celtics rallied to take the series 4-3.

That isn't to make the exact comparison here, but only to say that one magnificent scoring game is one magnificent scoring game, and the Cats can't count on that happening every night.

Billy Gillispie said nearly as much Friday, the Kentucky coach pointing out that despite Meeks' heroics, the UK lead was just 71-64 with 6:52 left and, in Gillispie's words, "We were throwing the thing away."

After all, how many times do you see a box score in which a team wins by 18 points on an opponent's home floor when it has just one player score in double figures?

"We made 12 threes,"Gillispie said. "That's probably not going to happen for us again this year."

So other things need to happen, and no, not that much-discussed need for a third scorer. Gillispie has no patience for such talk, arguing that he'd rather have six or seven players averaging seven or eight points. "That's when you really have something special," he has said.

But what he does need, what Kentucky needs, and what he talked about Friday, was a host of players playing to their potential so that the Cats can reach their potential.

Examples: There's the continuing soap opera that is DeAndre Liggins, the freshman who was mysteriously left to sit at Tennessee on Tuesday night. ("He just didn't do what's necessary to get on the court," Gillispie said.) There's Josh Harrellson, the sophomore transfer who didn't make it off the bench Tuesday night. There's A.J. Stewart, the athletic sophomore who has shown flashes, but not a lot of consistency.

"There's been too much lurking," Gillispie said. "Sometimes people accept a role where they don't play much."

The man isn't much on accepting things. You get what you earn and all that. He complimented freshman Darius Miller's play against the Vols, but added, "it's been overdue, in my opinion."

There are others who believe that until Tuesday, Meeks wasn't getting his due.

ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes said that when you stop and think about it, the Georgia native might be the most complete of all the player-of-the-year candidates.

Fellow ESPN analyst Jay Bilas was quoted as saying that Patrick Patterson might be the most overlooked player in the country.

There's little doubt that the one-two punch is capable of carrying the Cats along for quite a ride. But Jodie Meeks isn't going to score 54 points every night. The rest have to be ready to go.

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