Exactly 4 years ago today, then head coach Billy Gillispie brought an unranked, 12-4 Kentucky Wildcat team into Thompson-Bowling arena to face Bruce Pearl and the Tennessee Volunteers. Gillispie was already under a ton of heat from the Big Blue Nation after suffering an unspeakable loss to VMI in Rupp Arena. The blowout loss against #1 North Carolina, losing to #22 Miami (FL) at home, and suffering defeat in the Battle of the Bluegrass was not helping his case, either. The Wildcats season rested in the hands of power forward Patrick Patterson, and shooting guard Jodie Meeks.
Meeks had already hung 46 points on Appalachian State earlier in the year, so it’s not like this guy can’t shoot. He was averaging 24.2 ppg., which was 5th best in the nation. Tennessee must have forgot to read a scouting report on this guy as he annihilated their defense for 54 points. Because of the setting, the performance was one of the best you will ever see. Come into an hostile environment, in a border war, against the reining SEC Champions, and break a 39-year-old school record? On that night, we were all witnesses.
The performance alone deserves more perspective than I could ever express to someone that didn’t see it unfold. Jodie Meeks broke a record held by Dan Issel, one of the most prolific scorers of all time, and is still UK’s all time leader in points scored. At the time, Meeks’ 54 was the most points scored by one player in the past decade. No player from a “BCS” conference had scored more since 2000. On the same night, 6 Division 1 teams scored fewer than Jodie Meeks, and a John Calipari led Memphis Tigers team outscored Meeks by 1 point. The Kentucky team as a whole, scored 54 points in a win vs. West Virginia earlier in the year. Jodie Meeks accounted for 60% of UK’s scoring that night, while Dan Issell’s 52 was only 44% of the Wildcats 120 points on his record breaking night.
Meeks also set the school record for 3 point baskets made with 10-15 from 3, a perfect 14-14 from the FT line, and made 5 2-point baskets as well. For me, this performance has to be up there in the conversation for the best individual performances I’ve ever witnessed. The #23 jersey had not looked that good since Michael Jordan finally called it quits. You would think after 26 first half points that Meeks would have cooled off, but he scored another 28 in the 2nd to lead the ‘Cats 90-72 thrashing of Tennessee. As the time wound down, the ball was rightfully in the hands of Jodie Meeks as the final buzzer went off. Not only a great moment for Meeks, but the Big Blue Nation as a whole. Destroying Tennessee in Knoxville, breaking 2 school records, and getting the win. Thanks for the memories, Jodie.
Note: In the video below, watch as Jodie Meeks heads to the line after getting fouled on a 3-point basket. As he sinks his 50th point, he turns to his left and looks at Tennessee point guard Bobby Maze and says “50″ Priceless.
Youtube Credit goes to OOKBlue