Morning-after Meeks

Haven’t turned on the television yet, but I guess that really happened, right? Yes. There’s the box score. Jodie Meeks with 54 against Tennessee.

I talk about the process of putting things together from time to time here, and last night was an interesting night. Papers everywhere are facing earlier deadlines, and UK beat writer Brett Dawson and I, and most of the newspaper reporters here last night, were filing stories at the buzzer.

But because of Meeks’ big performance, ESPN kept him longer than usual and we didn’t wind up finishing postgame interviews until 5 minutes before time to file our re-written stories. So what you saw this morning was pretty much what was filed at the gun.

Below is the expanded column I wrote on the game (or click here). You can also see a longer account from Pat Forde at ESPN.com.

It was an interesting challenge to write, first because of the time of night. There was no getting Dan Issel (whose record Meeks broke) on the phone. Not much time for wider reaction. And while everybody was interesting and talkative after the game, there wasn’t that “money” quote, the one that summed things up perfectly and memorably. If you’re writing a game story, you need to record what people said anyway. For me, writing a game column, that meant relying very little on quotes.

The first column I wrote was geared toward featuring a guy who’d had a great game. The second needed to be geared toward writing about a guy who had made some significant history in one of the most history-laden programs in college sports.

One interesting scene after the game. Like many coaches now, Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl does his postgame radio show in front of fans at Thompson-Boling Arena. He signs autographs and poses for pictures during the commercial breaks. Last night, even an hour after taking a beating on national television and giving up 54 to Meeks, Pearl was mingling with fans, even a group of UK fans, spent five minutes talking to a man who has a new restaurant in Knoxville, was patient when Marc Maggard approached him and tried to sell him on a point guard somewhere or other, then spoke again to Pat, Brett and me, who had missed his post-game news conference to chase UK. I don’t think you’d see that from many coaches after a home-court loss to an arch-rival.

And think about what comes next for Meeks. In the first game after his record-setting effort — he gets to go back home to Georgia to play.

A couple of out-take quotes that I didn’t use, but that I thought were interesting:

— From Billy Gillispie:
“Well I’m really disappointed we’re still looking to try to develop that third scorer. That’s the theme, right?”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“To have one guy in double figures and win on a very good opponent’s home floor by 18, I don’t know if it’s ever happened. It probably hasn’t.”

“He never plays at less than 100 percent energy. He’s a very explosive player. He’s a very quick athlete. He’s a very strong guy. And you’r ecoming off screns, they’re putting 3 or 4 guys on him, they’re hedging out on screens and doing a great job of trying not to let him catch it, and he just extends it a little bit further. But his energy level never goes down. You don’t know whether the ball’s going to go in the basket, and it’s definitely not going to go in for 54 points most nights, but you do know what you’re going to get from him as far as energy level.”

“One of the things that I was worried about, maybe in the summer, we changed his weightlifting regimen. i thought he was lifting too much and our weight training guy agreed and he started doing more flexiblity stuff, more agility and stressing, because I thought he was kind of muscle-bound, if that’s still a term, it’s an old-time term, I thought he was getting kind of muscle-bound so they changed it, and he got in tremendous condition.”

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