Its not that he scored 54, although that number is amazing. It broke the all-time UK scoring record that no old-timer ever believed could be touched. It was the most points by a UK player ever, but it was also eight more points than a few weeks ago when Jodie scored the most points since 1970. In fact, only Melvin Turpin’s two games in the 80s have seen a UK player get more than 42. Add to that the fact that it was (1) the most points by a college player in a game that ended in regulation in over a DECADE, (2) the most points by a player at a BCS school in regulation since the early 90s and (3) the most points in the SEC since Chris Jackson (only the greatest shooter I have ever seen) in 1989, and well…..it is almost unfathomable the amount of points he scored.
Its also not that he hit ten three pointers, breaking a school record. That number is amazing however, especially when you consider the names that have shot threes at this school. Derrick Miller, Tony Delk, Travis Ford, Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans, etc could all light it up. But Tony Delk became the first to hit double digit threes in a game….and in so doing, broke his OWN RECORD, which he held with Delk. Those threes are the most for an SEC player since Jackson and there could have been another, had his foot not been on the line.
Its not that he shot 60% from the field in breaking the scoring record. Jodie didnt force shots in order to try and set a scoring record or make stupid plays outside of the flow of the offense. Rather, he took shots when open and had 8 rebounds and 4 assists as part of his performance. There was never a point in the game when you said, “oh come on Jodie, you should pass.” In fact, I actually was calling for him to shoot it more, especially during Tennessee’s second half run. Meeks didnt have a Steph Curry, “shoot it until it starts going in” performance. Rather he put on an offensive clinic on how to get open, shoot with perfect form and watch the ball touch nothing but net. One for the ages.
Even though all those feats are impressive, that isnt what made this such a special night in my eyes. No, the reason this is the greatest performance ever is that Meeks did it on the road, on national television against Tennessee. No one has to tell UK fans that the Vols are always a big game due to the local rivalry. But add to it the fact that the Vols were the favorites in the SEC, had won the last two in Knoxville and were beating their chests about passing the Cats as kings of the SEC. Then with Kentucky needing a signature win on national television, ready to make a statement on the road and wanting to showcase their improvement, the game in Knoxville was huge for the program. For Meeks to do it on that stage, in a hostile environment and with all the pressure of a defense focused in on him…..well there has never been one better.
Dan Issel’s accomplishments were great and yes, he did them before the three point line. But he also played on a top-flight team and in his 53 point game, scored 53 out of 120 points, a little over 43 percent of the points. Jodie scored 54 out of 90, around 60 percent of the points. Goose Givens scored 41 in a national championship game and that should by no means be discounted. There is no greater stage and his performance catapulted the Cats to a banner, not just an SEC road win. But as great as these accomplishments were, Jodie Meeks’ night still tops the list. With a strong rival opponent on the road, Meeks combined point output, team success and national stage greater than any player that has worn the UK jersey has ever done. In so doing, he produced the greatest individual performance in UK history.
Jodie Meeks…..welcome to UK lore.