The roller coaster ride that is UK basketball this season took another climbing, twisting loop this past weekend. With big man Patrick Patterson laid up with a sprained ankle, the Cats desperately needed a big performance from several role players, if there was any hope of picking up an important road win at Arkansas.
What no one knew was the monster game Jody Meeks was about to unleash on the Hogs. It was just another day at the office for the junior guard. When Kentucky has most needed someone to rise up and deliver, Meeks has been the man.
Need a bucket at the buzzer to win a game? Meeks is the guy. Billy Donovan and his Florida Gators came to Lexington and exited with an “L” thanks to Meeks’ late game heroics. A loss to the Gators and the Cats would have dropped their fourth in a row, their third straight conference game at home, which would have been a first.
Instead, the Cats have picked up some momentum again. Meeks topped that game by dropping 45 points on former Wildcat John Pelphrey’s Razorbacks. With Patterson on the bench, Meeks delivered, negating the need (again) for a third scorer to materialize.
Meeks was sensational, hitting on 17-24 from the field, including 7-12 from three-point land. It was the third time this season Meeks has gone for 40 or more. It’s the seventh time that he’s scored more than 30. For his efforts, in my opinion, Meeks solidified the SEC Player of the Year honors.
It was the second time this season that Meeks broke the arena record. The 45 points is a Bud Walton record. When Meeks scored 54 at Tennessee, his point total broke the UK and Thompson-Boling Arena records.
After starting the season 5-0 in conference play, the Cats dropped three games in eight days. Now, the Cats have won two straight and again are a player in the SEC East.
Meeks’ performance against Arkansas once again puts the program on the front pages of national newspapers and makes them the lead story on national television.
That’s important because Meeks’ coach can’t seem to stay out of his own way, when it comes to doing halftime interviews with ESPN. Some fans will say Gillispie’s actions are a non-factor. I say viewers can detect Gillispie's abrasiveness, and as the face of the program, his actions lately have cast a negative shadow on the team and performances like Meeks'.
Meeks might not win the awards given to the nation’s best player, but I challenge anyone to find another player more important to his team thus far. A few more like Saturday's performance and the Cats will find themselves positioned for a nice post season run.
Those are the highlights… Stay tuned.