KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With its rich basketball tradition, Kentucky has had some incredible players come through its program in the last 106 years. None have had a game like Jodie Meeks.
Meeks scored 54 points to break a school record and lead Kentucky to a 90-72 victory over No. 24 Tennessee on Tuesday night.
"To be at the top of the list for the time being is something else because there have been a lot of great, great, great players," Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said. "I hope they were all watching tonight and enjoying it. I guarantee they were rooting him on."
Meeks broke Dan Issel's 39-year-old record of 53 points set at Mississippi. The Southeastern Conference's leading scorer was only the second player this season to surpass the 50-point mark, according to STATS LLC. North Dakota State's Ben Woodside had 60 against Stephen F. Austin in a triple overtime loss on Dec. 12.
Meeks surpassed his previous high of 46 points, set Dec. 20 against Appalachian State, with 4:50 left when he hit one of his 10 3-pointers. He set the record with two free throws with 1:31 left.
After the game, he was mobbed by teammates in the middle of the Thompson-Boling Arena court, where the Wildcats (13-4, 2-0 SEC) handed the Volunteers their third loss in January.
Meeks entered the game ranked fourth in the nation in scoring with a 24.2 average.
The 54 points was also the biggest individual SEC performance since Chris Jackson had 55 for LSU against Mississippi in 1989.
Down by 6 at the half, Tennessee (10-5, 1-1) cut Kentucky's lead to 43-41 on a fastbreak basket by Wayne Chism 1:30 into the second half.
But the Vols' spotty defense couldn't contain Meeks, who hit a layup and two 3-pointers to help the Wildcats on a 10-0 run that gave them a 53-41 lead. Meeks was 10-for-15 from 3-point range.
Kentucky stumbled into foul trouble with 9:34 left, and Tennessee sank 11 straight from the free throw line to cut the Wildcats' lead to 71-64 with 6:52 left. But Meeks, who was 14-for-14 from the line, scored nine straight points to put the game away.
"He's a great player and he came out and showed it tonight," Chism said.
Tyler Smith led Tennessee with 19 points, Chism had 18 and Bobby Maze added 11.
Tennessee shot a measly 37.9 percent from the field compared to Kentucky's 56.6 percent and hit only six of 23 attempts from behind the arc.
"We tried to deny Jodie Meeks the basketball, but to show how pitiful we were, Meeks did anything he wanted to do," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said.