LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jodie Meeks would certainly like to duplicate Saturday's performance in two weeks.
Playing on the same floor he'll be playing on in two weeks when Kentucky battles arch-rival Louisville, Meeks put together one of the all-time greatest performances by a Kentucky Wildcat in Freedom Hall history. Meeks' career-high 46 points were the most ever by a Wildcat in Freedom Hall, helping the Wildcats (8-3) torch the Appalachian State State Mountaineers 93-69 Saturday afternoon in Louisville, Ky.
“It was something else,” UK Coach Billy Gillispie said. “He played great. I never had a guy score that many points on one of my teams. It was just an unbelievable performance.”
Meeks was connecting from just about anywhere on the floor Saturday, especially from behind the arc. The junior from Norcross, Ga., connected on 14-of-21 shooting, including 9-of-14 from the behind the arc. His nine treys were a career high and tied Tony Delk for the most 3-pointers made in a game.
“It's just a good feeling,” Meeks said. “I just have to give credit to my teammates for finding me, coming and setting picks for me, and finding me open. I thought they did a good job of finding me early in the game and getting me going offensively.”
Appalachian State (4-4) has become synonymous with the word upset after the school's football team shocked the nation with its upset over perennial powerhouse Michigan last year, but the basketball team couldn't find that same magic in its first meeting against UK.
“They had a history of being a giant-killer – not that we're a giant yet, but we're going to try to be one,” Gillispie said. “They definitely came here to try to beat us and our guys really responded to that challenge.”
Meeks and the Wildcats squashed the Mountaineers' bid for an upset within the first few minutes.
For the second consecutive game, the Wildcats came out firing. UK opened the game with a 10-0 run, marking the second straight game the Wildcats have scored 10 or more points before their opponent got on the scoreboard.
Meeks was a big part of that run, connecting on two 3-pointers out of the gate. The Mountaineers cut it to 12-7 on a Kellen Brand's personal seven-point run, but Meeks made sure Appalachian State never got any closer.
The junior hit seven of his first eights shots, and by the 4:20 mark he had already tied a career high for 3-pointers. His 24 first-half points were more than the Mountaineers' team total, all but sealing the game's fate heading into halftime.
But he wasn't done yet. Another four 3-pointers in the second half and 22 more points put Meeks in elite company. Before it was all said and done, Meeks notched career highs in points (46), 3-pointers (nine) and field goals made (14), erupting cheers of “Jo-die, Jo-die” in the final minutes of the game. His 46 points are the sixth-most in UK history.
“When you talk about the tradition of Kentucky basketball and you're ever on any top-10 list, you're a pretty special guy,” Gillispie said. “That's a pretty special guy who had a pretty special day.”
As hot as Meeks was, the biggest upside might have been the Wildcats' turnaround in the turnover department. After a season-long battle with turnovers, UK committed just 15 turnovers while forcing a season-high 11 steals.
Plus, the Wildcats welcomed the return of junior Ramon Harris, who has missed the last three games with a neck and upper back injury. Harris suffered the injury after colliding with junior Michael Porter against Lamar on Dec. 3.
Harris, who scored four points Saturday, called it a blessing just to be back on the court after struggling with stiffness and immobility in his body after the injury.
“For me to even be walking again and being able to hug my family and my teammates is a blessing,” Harris said.
Junior Patrick Patterson chipped in with 19 points for the Wildcats. Brand paced Appalachian State with 16 points, but the Wildcats held the Mountaineers to just 33 percent shooting. UK will return to action Monday night against Tennessee State at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena.
“We've started out against two worthy opponents in our last two games and got after them pretty good for a long period of time,” Gillispie said.