LEXINGTON, Ky. – Unbelievable. Jodie Meeks did it again.
It didn't matter that it was a change of venue or that he already shattered a laundry list of records at Freedom Hall on Saturday – Meeks wanted more Monday night, and he got it. After putting up 46 points on Saturday, the most ever by a Wildcat at Freedom Hall, Meeks poured in another 32 Monday night at Rupp Arena, fueling UK (9-3) to a 102-58 win over Tennessee State (3-7).
The only difference this time were the chants of “Jo-die, Jo-die” from the 21,958 fans in attendance came before halftime. While tying a school-record for most 3-pointers in a half with seven, Meeks outscored the Tigers 27-24 in the first half, the second straight game he's outscored the Wildcats' opponent in the first half of play.
“It is amazing to me how well he is shooting the ball,” UK Coach Billy Gillispie said. “I think we are moving the ball better and he is running the court very well. He is not taking any bad shots either. In some ways this was a better effort by him to me even though he didn't get 46 points.”
Meeks was so hot in the first half that a fan yelled at Meeks to shoot the ball after he had nailed back-to-back 3-pointers. Meeks was nearly 70 feet from the basket.
“I didn't hear that, but that's a little too far,” Meeks said. “I was definitely looking if I was open to shoot it because I hit a couple in a row. I thought we did a good job of moving the basketball early on, and I credit my teammates for looking for me in open spots and setting screens for me.”
Before it was all said and done, Meeks finished with his fourth game of 32-plus points, but Meeks wasn't the only cylinder firing. While Meeks has been busy torching opponents from behind the arc, Patterson has quietly found his groove. On Monday night, Patterson dominated the paint for 33 points and 11 rebounds for his Southeastern Conference-leading seventh double-double of the year. It was the first time a pair of Wildcats each scored 30 or more points since Jack Givens and Rick Robey did it in 1975.
Patterson rarely missed against the Tigers, throwing down a bevy of highlight-reel dunks. He threw down five in all and finished the game 15-of-17 from the floor.
“I think Patterson had a fantastic game,” Gillispie said. “He got the ball reversed well, and when he catches the ball inside, then he has a good chance to score.”
Over the last three games, UK has stuck with a winning formula from the start: jump to an early lead, play stifling defense, make free throws and let Meeks do his thing. They also appear to be playing faster and moving the ball better – the Wildcats dished out a season-high 30 assists – but Gillispie still sees some room for improvement.
"They're doing good right now, but we can do better,” Gillispie said. “We can do better every single possession. I want them sprinting every single possession. That's very difficult to do but that's what we're trying to do.”
Yet, UK is playing its best ball of the year. They Wildcats are winning by more than 27 points during their current streak, and they're doing it from tip-off to the final buzzer.
This time the Wildcats roared out to a 15-0 start before the Tigers got on the scoreboard at the 13:24 mark. It was the third straight game UK has jumped out to a lead of 10-0 or more. In those three stretches, UK has outscored its opponents 39-0 in a span of more than 18 minutes.
“I really think they took a big step forward today because the last two times we've gotten big leads, I don't think we kept concentrating,” Gillispie said. “Today, I thought that we did.”
On the defensive side, the Wildcats held the Tigers to 32 percent shooting, and UK hit 12-of-13 from the charity stripe. Junior Perry Stevenson added 12 points for the Wildcats and junior Michael Porter tied a career high with seven assists.
The bad news? The Wildcats don't play again until Saturday when they play Florida Atlantic on Saturday. Whether or not that'll cool the red-hot Wildcats remains to be seen.
“I think the real special team are the ones that can improve while they're winning,” Gillispie said. “We have to get better in every single area, but if we keep shooting the ball well, if we keep getting the ball close to the basket, if we keep making foul shots, and we keep defending and rebounding well, we're going to be OK.”