Jan. 22, 2009

 

By Anthony Oliva III
NCAA.com

Looking at the Kentucky record book is like looking at a Who’s Who of college basketball history. And, if junior Jodie Meeks and sophomore Patrick Patterson continue to score like they have been, they’ll soon have their place in it.

The duo is scoring at a rate rarely seen in the illustrious history of Kentucky basketball. Currently they are the third-highest scoring in duo in points per game ever to play at Kentucky, and the highest-scoring pair since 1970.

Both other high-scoring duos included Wildcat great Dan Issel. Issel combined with Mike Pratt to score 53.2 points a game in 1969-70 and with Mike Casey to average 47.7 points in 1968-69.

Meeks, the nation’s third leading scorer, is averaging 26.0 points per game as Patterson, last year’s SEC Co-Freshman of the Year, is adding 18.3 points a contest, for a combined total of 44.3 points per game. Their output accounts for 56 percent of Kentucky’s total points. They are also currently the highest scoring duo in all of Division I.

The pair is very aware of the elite company that they are in and they appreciate being linked with such iconic figures at Kentucky.

“It feels great. Anytime you’re in the company of a guy like Dan Issel, it’s an honor because he was such a great player in college and in the NBA and he’s a legend,” Meeks said. “So anytime you’re in the same sentence with him it’s a great thing.”

Meeks has drawn ever more comparisons to Issel since Jan. 13 when he broke Issel’s Kentucky single-game scoring record with 54 points against Tennessee. Issel’s mark was 53 back in 1970.

“It was one of those nights I felt like everything I threw up I was going to hit,” Meeks said.

Meeks said it’s “surreal” to be mentioned with some of Kentucky’s greats, and it’s partly a product of coach Billy Gillispie constantly stressing the importance of Kentucky tradition.

“(Gillispie) talks about it a lot – pretty much every game and every practice,” said Patterson of the rich history of Kentucky basketball. “He always talks about the great players before us that put on a Kentucky jersey and all the great tradition they had. He tells us that whenever we play to play with pride like they did and represent Kentucky the way it has been represented for these past years.”

It’d be tough to overstate Kentucky’s tradition. The Wildcats are the owners of the all-time winningest basketball program in NCAA history, and as much as Meeks’ and Patterson’s numbers are above that of some Kentucky legends, Meeks says individual glory is not what they’re after.

“Kentucky basketball is real big,” Meeks said. “It’s on the same level as Yankee baseball or Boston Celtics basketball, so it’s very good for us to get this recognition, but we’re not the kind of guys that beg for attention.”

Where they do get a lot of attention is from opposing defenses. The next highest scorer for the Wildcats (15-4, 4-0 SEC) is Perry Stevenson – and he’s averaging 7.6 points per night. As a result, teams try to contain the dynamic duo night in and night out. They work a classic inside-outside game, however, to remain productive.

“We just do what we do best,” Patterson said. “Pretty much whenever the defense collapses on me I look for Jodie to knock down a shot on the perimeter. Or whenever the team is pressuring the perimeter outside that opens us up for the bigs inside and Jodie and the rest of my teammates look for me inside.”

Meeks, at six-foot-four, has shot 45 percent from 3-point range and 91 percent from the free throw line, both tops in the SEC. He’s made 75 3-pointers this year which is tied for third in the nation. The Georgia native has scored in double figures in every game this season, including 12 games over 20 points. He also added a 46-point game on Dec. 20 versus Appalachian State.

Patterson, at six-foot-nine and 235 pounds, patrols the paint and is a double-double machine. The West Virginia native has 10 double doubles so far and is shooting 67 percent from the field, which is best in the SEC. His 9.6 rebounds per game are second in the conference.

Not only are Meeks and Patterson linked by their stellar play, but they are linked by their close relationship off the court. They are, in fact, roommates, and their friendship has paid dividends on the court.

“I think us being roommates really helps us on the court because I always know where he is, and he always knows where I am. So, it just kind of helps us bond that much more,” Meeks said.

Patterson echoed this sentiment.

“I think we have a pretty strong relationship,” Patterson said of him and Meeks. “We hang out a lot. We go to the movies a lot and go to the mall. Our teammates are always in our room with me and Jodie hanging out. Our teammates love hanging out with us and we love hanging out with our teammates. We just do so much together.”

And if this scoring keeps up, they’ll be doing something else together – locking themselves into the Kentucky record book.