Meeks 54 Shoots Wildcats Over Vols in Knoxville - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Jarvis Greer

Meeks 54 Shoots Wildcats Over Vols in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Jodie Meeks was just trying to get a

victory. He didn't fathom having a chance at earning a spot among

Kentucky's greatest players.

Meeks scored a school-record 54 points to help Kentucky cruise

to a 90-72 win over No. 24 Tennessee on Tuesday night.

"It means a lot to be in the same sentence as Dan Issel. It's

mind-boggling," he said. "I was just out there playing to win."

Meeks, who broke Issel's 39-year-old record of 53 points set at

Mississippi, was mobbed by his Kentucky teammates in the middle of

the Thompson-Boling Arena court, where the Wildcats (13-4, 2-0 SEC)

handed the Volunteers their third loss in January.

The Southeastern Conference's leading scorer surpassed his

previous high of 46 points, which he set Dec. 20 against

Appalachian State, with 4:50 left as he hit an open 3, one of 10

3-pointers he would make for the night. He set the record with free

throws with 1:31 left.

Meeks entered the game ranked fourth in the nation in scoring

with an average 24.2 points per game.

"I have never seen anything like it," Kentucky coach Billy

Gillispie said. "Jodie Meeks had 46 against Appalachian State, and

they are a nice team, but not near a team the quality of Tennessee

and on the home court."

The 54 points was also the biggest individual SEC performance

since Chris Jackson's 55 for LSU against Mississippi in 1989.

"There have been so many great players - this is the greatest

basketball tradition in the world at the collegiate level - and to

be able to put your name up there with some of those greats is

quite an accomplishment," Gillispie said.

Down by 6 at the half, Tennessee (10-5, 1-1) cut Kentucky's lead

to 43-41 on a fastbreak basket by Wayne Chism a minute and a half

into the second half.

But the Vols' spotty defense couldn't contain Meeks, who hit a

layup and two 3-pointers to help the Wildcats on a 10-0 run that

gave them a 53-41 lead. Even contested shots sank perfectly through

the nets.

"Defensively we tried to guard him as a team," Tennessee coach

Bruce Pearl said. "We didn't have any one guy on him, but none of

our guards could guard him."

Kentucky began stumbling into foul trouble with 9:34 left, and

Tennessee - which to that point had shot 35 percent from the

free-throw line - sank 11 straight bonus shots to cut the Wildcats'

lead to 71-64 with 6:52 left.

But Meeks, who also went a perfect 14-for-14 from the free-throw

line, scored nine straight points to put the game away. No other

Kentucky player scored in double figures. Patrick Patterson grabbed

12 rebounds.

"This year it's his team, and he's playing like it is and he's

going all out," Chism said.

Tyler Smith led Tennessee with 19 points, Chism had 18 points

and Bobby Maze added 11 points.

With two 3-pointers and a fast break layup by Meeks, Kentucky

used a 12-0 run to grab a 28-20 lead with 7:27 in the first half.

Meeks had 26 points in the first half, including going 5-for-7 from

behind the arc.

Tennessee couldn't capitalize on several easy opportunities

under the basket in the first half, and the Wildcats pushed their

lead up to 39-28 with 2:37 left before halftime.

J.P. Prince stole the ball from Kevin Galloway, drove it to the

basket and kicked it out to Smith, who sank a 3 with 15 seconds to

cut the Wildcats' lead to 41-37 before the break.

Tennessee shot a measly 37.9 percent from the field compared to

Kentucky's 56.6 percent and only hit six of 23 attempts from behind

the arc.

The Vols forced 15 turnovers - seven more than the Wildcats -

but could only turn them into 16 points.

"Tonight we were not competitive," Pearl said.

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