Lexington, Ky. - Although Kentucky lost, guard Jodie Meeks' return from an injury-plagued 2007-08 was a triumph.
Meeks excelled on offense and defense in UK's 111-103 loss to Virginia Military Institute on Friday night. He scored a career-high 39 points. That marked the most points by a Cat since Tayshaun Prince scored 41 against Tulsa in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
Meeks also put a defensive blanket on VMI's three-point specialist, Austin Kenon. "He's played his heart out every single practice (and) every single time," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said of Meeks. "He was just spectacular."
As is his custom, Meeks downplayed his individual accomplishments. He wrote off his 39 points (previous career-high was 21) by saying, "I do whatever I have to do to help the team. It happened to be scoring."
VMI Coach Duggar Baucom was more effusive. "Meeks was unbelievable," he said. "We couldn't guard him." Baucom shared Kenon's admiration of Meeks' defense. "Coach, he's under my shirt," Kenon said of his six second-half points. But three of those points were killers: a three-pointer from the left corner that gave VMI the lead for good with 3:49 left. Meeks said he mistakenly helped off Kenon. "Sort of a mental breakdown for me," he said.