The superlatives and adjectives continue to flow from the keyboards of sportswriters around the nation, all in a effort to describe Jodie Meeks' unparalleled performance against a helpless Tennessee squad Tuesday night. My keyboard was rendered temporarily "mute", with only my own personal comparisons left to gauge the enormity of what I and millions others had just witnessed; For I don't own the ability to write as eloquently as Pat Forde, or the cleverness to turn a phrase as Eric Crawford. I don't own the experience or expertise of John Clay, or the sports wisdom of Rick Bozich.
So I'm left to ponder. Ponder and compare what I have seen with my own set of eyes (amateurs only):
- I saw UK's Jack Givens score 41 points against Duke in the 1978 National Title game. Goose was 18 of 27 from the floor, made 5 of 8 free throws, and he threw in three assists. That was a dominating performance.
- I saw Washington (DC) Dunbar's Reggie Williams completely embarrass some hapless opponent in the King of the Bluegrass in 1983. He, Muggsy Bogues, and Reggie Lewis simply had their way. That was a dominating performance.
- I saw Melvin Turpin score 66.7% of UK's points in a 65-63 loss to Tennessee in January of '83. Turpin was 18 of 22 from the field and he made 6 of 8 free throws, scoring 42 points. That was a dominating performance.
- I again saw Melvin Turpin play a nearly perfect offensive game versus LSU in January of '84. He went an incredible 15 of 17 from the floor and made five of six free throws for 35 points, in a 96-80 UK victory. That was a dominating performance.
- I saw Male High School's Winston Bennett drop 44 on a very good Jeffersontown team in the '82-'83 season. Future UK, and WKU player Todd Ziegler could do nothing to stop the beast that was Bennett. That was a dominating performance.
- I saw UK's Derrick Miller go banana's against California in November of '88. Miller, and often-times forgotten UK player, made 13 of 15 shots, and an incredible 7 of 8 three-point shots, to go along with 3 of 4 free throws to finish with 36 points, in a 89-71 UK victory. That was a dominating performance.
- I saw Oak Hill Academy's Carmelo Anthony have his way for a half against a very good Male High team in the Marshall County Hoopfest, in 2001. That was a dominating performance.
- I saw Tayshaun Prince devour Tulsa in the NCAA Tournament in 2002. Prince, scoring 41 points, was 14 of 21 from the field, he made six of his eight three-point attempts, and seven of his nine free throws (as with Meeks, Prince also recorded four assists), in an 87-82 UK win. That was a dominating performance.
- I saw Chris Lofton beat Ballard, almost single-handedly, in the 2003 Sweet 16 Championship game. In scoring his 39 points, Lofton went 11-17 from the field and 9 of 12 from beyond the arc (which tied Richie Farmer's single game State Tourney 3-pointers made record). Lofton never broke a sweat. That was a dominating performance.
All great, dominating performances. But none compare to what Jodie Meeks did to Tennessee. His stat line leaves one awe-inspired: 15-22 FG's, 10-15 threes, 14-14 free throws, eight rebounds, four assists, and 54 points (60% of UK's total). Twenty-two shots to score 54 points: Ken Pomeroy's computers surely suffered a meltdown calculating Meeks' offensive efficiency.
To illustrate how dictatorial Meeks' play was, I've put together a chart listing when Meeks scored, the score of the game, and how much game time elapsed between baskets (of course, starting with the first half):
Time Game Score Type of basket Time Between Baskets
19:11 2-2 Layup :49 seconds
16:50 7-6 3-pointer 2:21
13:17 15-13 3-pointer 3:35
10:09 21-20 3-pointer 3:08
8:29 24-20 3-pointer 1:40
7:27 28-20 Layup 1:02
5:35 32-26 3-pointer 1:52
5:13 34-27 Two FT's :22
2:41 38-28 Layup (and foul) 2:42
2:41 39-38 One FT 2:42
1:40 41-32 Two FT's 1:01
19:28 43-37 Jumper :32
18:16 45-41 Jumper 1:12
17:55 48-41 3-pointer :21
16:37 53-41 3-pointer 1:18
13.55 58-44 Two FT's 3:02
8:42 68-53 Two FT's 5:13
7:03 71-59 3-pointer 1:39
5:29 74-64 3-pointer 1:34
4:50 77-64 3-pointer :39
4:11 80-64 Three FT's :39
1:31 88-70 Two FT's 2:40
Meeks' five minute stretch of not scoring in the second half is mitigated by him being substituted for at the 8:42 mark, then reinserted at the 8:31 mark. He once again was taken out at the 8:26 mark and put back in at the 8:02 mark. He also recorded two of his four assists during that scoring "lull."
Meeks also has forever redefined the sports phrase "scoring in bunches" -- He scored 11 points in the first 10 minutes of the game; he scored nine points in the final 5:35 of the first half; he scored 10 points in the first 3:23 of the second half; Meeks scored 12 points from the 7:03 - 4:11 mark of the second half, a span of 2:52. That's right, 12 points in two-minutes and fifty-two seconds. Incredible isn't a big enough word.
As much as I wish the game had been played in Rupp Arena, it only adds to Meeks' historical achievement that the game was played on an opponents floor. While toward the end of the game I actually began feeling sorry for the UT fans and players, it was a sweet, guilty pleasure indeed to see the look of exasperation on the faces of the UT faithful, the players, and Bruce Pearl.
Not only this game, but Meeks' entire season is a testament to the results and accomplishments one can achieve through hard work, determination, and perseverence, in the face of adversity. After last years injury extravaganza, many fans, including me, wondered if Meeks would ever regain the form that made him one of the most sought after players in the country out of high school. Before the season started Meeks told Darrell Bird, the Editor of the Cats' Pause, that his lost '07-'08 campaign was filled with frustration and pain; first one thing, and then another:
"It was a fractured pelvis, but I think it was a ripple affect after that. That led to a hip flexor strain and then a groin strain and a specialist finally diagnosed a sports hernia. Every time I would walk it would hurt. So you can imagine what it was like trying to cut. The doctors said it would heal, but when I tried to come back and make a hard cut it would just rip away from the tendon. It never really had a chance to heal. Some practices would be all right, not in much pain. But the next day I would tell them I'm hurt and I can't do it. I think the coaches might have thought I wasn't telling the truth because I had just been out there practicing the day before. But I was just hurting it again every time I tried to come back."
For me, what Meeks endured last year, makes his play this year all the more special.
So with all due respect; slide over Mr. Issel, you held the record for 38 seasons (1,252 games), but there's a new Top Gun in town. Your 53 point game versus Mississippi has been eclipsed by the pride of Norcross, Georgia, and Wildcat Lodge.
Thanks Jodie, for giving UK fans around the nation a memory that will last a lifetime.
If you're interested, UKathletics.com has posted an excellent interview with Meeks. Eric Lindsay and Marcus Shanks, both UK Media Relations employees, conducted the interview. I highly recommend giving it a read. It can be found here.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!