Here’s the column I filed at the buzzer. Would have been a nice column — had he not broken the school record! This buries the news a little as it is, but I’ll get to do some revising for later.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Here’s the scene. It was halftime, and Jodie Meeks had just giant slalomed all over Rocky Top for 26 points in the first half alone.
Bruce Pearl had his Tennessee team in the Thompson-Boling Arena locker room. And, though I wasn’t in there, I’m guessing Meeks’ name must have come up.
I’m no coach, mind you. I’ve got no matching tie and highlighter, but I’m guessing that, of a 15-minute halftime, something like 14 minutes and 58 seconds was probably devoted to not letting Meeks beat the Vols all by himself.
So what happens? The second half starts, and Meeks scores the first seven points, and he has 10 in the half’s first three minutes.
With four minutes left and his point total at 49, Meeks came out of the game for a short rest and even Tennessee fans were applauding him — well, at least some of them were. Most of the rest were headed for the exits. When the smoke had cleared, Meeks finished with a school-record 54 points in a 90-72 UK romp.
This is what Meeks does. It’s not just that he’s sixth in the nation in scoring. It’s that everybody knows he’s the guy. Tennessee tried everybody in Thompson-Boling Arena on Meeks last night.
Meeks is Batman. He’s tied to the conveyor belt and inching in toward the buzzsaw. And then, in the next camera shot, he’s free, and draining a three-pointer.
It was one thing when Meeks was doing it against Appalachian State, VMI or Kansas State. It’s another to do it on the road in the SEC on national television against a Tennessee team that, until a home loss to Gonzaga last week, had won 36 in a row in this building.
And here’s the question of the night:
Why is this guy not getting more national notoriety?
If Jodie Meeks were doing this at Duke or North Carolina, you’d have to cancel your cable subscription to keep him off the screen. You’d have to have Dick Vitale surgically removed from him.
Maybe this is a sign of how UK has fallen on the national landscape, though I think it has more to do with the Southeastern Conference not having more of a tie-in with ESPN.
Meeks’ two most impressive shots came when Tennessee was making a run. The Vols had climbed within 7 with 5 1/2 minutes left, when he nailed a three to push it back to 74-64. On the next trip down, he stole a pass out of the air, then hit a step-back three on the ensuing possession and Tennessee was done.
But here’s another development that was just as big last night. In the second half, the rest of UK’s team stopped watching Meeks and decided to play off him.
They found each other cutting to the baskets for layups and dunks. Meeks himself saw the D crashing in on him and lobbed to Patterson for a dunk.
So while it was a record night for Meeks — and one of the most hallowed records in UK history, breaking the single-game scoring mark of Wildcat legend Dan Issel — an even more promising note for this season is that the rest of the Wildcats got in on the fun.
UK, all of a sudden, looks hard to pick against at the top of the SEC. And Meeks, I’m guessing, is in for a little more national attention.