LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A.J. Stewart shook his fist in the air like Arsenio Hall and shared a laugh with Kevin Galloway. The two were in concert with the chants of 'Jodie! Jodie!' reverberating off the old building's low ceiling.
Jodie Meeks elevated for a dunk in Saturday's game against Appalachian State at Freedom Hall. Jodie Meeks was having a day, one of the best in Kentucky's storied history.
The junior guard lit up Freedom Hall, pouring in 46 points on a variety of long-range bombs and slashing drives to the basket in transition. When UK coach Billy Gillispie finally pulled Meeks from the game in the closing minute he had the sixth-highest single game total in the school's illustrious history just seven points behind Dan Issel's record of 53 against Ole Miss on Feb. 7, 1970. Meeks also tied Tony Delk's mark for most three-pointers in a game with nine and bested the highest point total (42) for a junior.
Meeks put on such a show in the famed 'shooter's gym' he finished with nearly half of Kentucky's points in the 93-69 blistering at Freedom Hall. The Cats scored the first 10 points of the game, led by 32 at halftime and cruised to their eighth win in the past nine games, making sure Appalachian State's hardwood team wouldn't replicate its gridiron brethren's penchant for stoning Goliath.
"It was something else," Gillispie said of Meeks' record day. "It was an unbelievable performance."
Meeks, who could have earned a nice endorsement deal if not for those pesky NCAA rules when he jokingly said his breakfast of eggs and hash browns may have been the reason he exploded, got hot right from the get-go and never looked back. He buried a three right in front of Appalachian State's bench just three minutes into the game as the Mountaineers' coaching staff pleaded with its players to keep track of the Cats' leading scorer. Not only did they fail to locate Meeks on that possession, they rarely did as the junior had 24 points (and five three-pointers) before the break. He finished 14-of-21 from the field, 9-of-14 from three-point range and 9-of-10 from the free throw line.
By the time he stepped to the free throw line with 5:48 remaining his point total rested at 38. That's when Meeks realized just how special a game he was having.
"I didn't know until I got on the free throw line and 38," Meeks said. "I didn't know until then but when I found out I tried not to force shots and just get them in the offense. I had a pretty good idea I was hot and when you have a feeling like that you just try to do what you've been doing all game."
Stewart claimed he had no knowledge of Meeks' total either until fans started chanting upon the 40th point swishing quietly through the net. At that point Meeks became the first UK player to score 40 since Tayshaun Prince dropped 41 on Tulsa in the second round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
"It was fun being out there with him while he did it," Stewart said. "I didn't know until he got his 43rd point and the crowd started yelling, 'Jodie! Jodie!' I was like, 'Why are they yelling for him? Oh, he's almost got 50.' Then he came down and hit another three and I was like, 'Let's get him 50.'"
Sending the historical component of the moment - Meeks finished with a Freedom Hall record for points scored by a UK player - Gillispie called Mark Krebs back from the scorer's table with a few minutes remaining to allow Meeks to shoot for 50. Of course, Gillispie coyly feigned ignorance of such a move after the game.
"He had 46," Gillispie said. "There is no way to get 50 from 46. I was going to let him get 40 and then all of the sudden he went from 38 to 46 in a hurry."
Meeks didn't sound like a guy who cared much about reaching the hallowed 50-point mark but the smile on his face seemed to indicate otherwise.
"My teammates were actually telling me to keep shooting because I'm not the type of guy to care about scoring 40 or 50 points a game, but when they're telling you that it's hard not to shoot," Meeks said.
Just like it was equally difficult for his teammates not to join in the crowd's celebration.
MEEKS BY THE NUMBERS
Most Points in a single game:
1. 53; Dan Issel vs. Ole Miss, 1970
2. 51; Dan Issel vs. LSU, 1970 and Cliff Hagan vs. Temple, 1953
4. 50; Bob Burrow vs. LSU, 1956
5. 47; Dan Issel vs. Alabama, 1970
6. 46; Jodie Meeks vs. Appalachian St., 2008
Most 3-pointers in a single game:
1. 9; Jodie Meeks vs. Appalachian St., 2008 and Tony Delk vs. TCU, 1996