Georgia vs. Mississippi State
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Stegman Coliseum, Athens
On TV: ESPN2 (Charter channel 33)
ATHENS — Jodie Meeks didn’t need another scoring record to earn more praise from his coach.
Even a rare missed free throw from Meeks was forgiven as Kentucky never trailed in coasting to a 68-45 win over Georgia on Sunday.
Meeks scored 22 points in his return to his home state — less than half of his school-record 54 in Kentucky’s win at No. 24 Tennessee on Tuesday night.
Meeks also missed his first free throw in four games. His streak of 36 straight free throws, third-longest in school history, ended when an attempt fell off the rim in the first half.
"Maybe the rims were hard," said teammate Perry Stevenson. "We’ll give him an excuse for this game."
Few excuses were necessary as the Wildcats were dominant from the opening minutes while taking their second straight road win in the Southeastern Conference.
Kentucky coach Billy Gillespie pulled Meeks with 5:14 remaining and the Wildcats leading 62-36.
Meeks, who made 8 of 16 shots from the field, laughed when asked about his one missed free throw in four tries.
"I knew you were going to ask that," Meeks said.
"It kind of went in and spun out. It was no big deal for me."
Meeks had no new record to celebrate — for points or consecutive free throws — but Gillespie said he was impressed with the way the junior from Norcross, handled compliments after the big game at Tennessee.
"I saw a million things that I liked a lot, and I was especially pleased with Jodie’s passes and hustle plays today," Gillespie said.
"We’ve still got a long, long way to go, but I saw a lot of things I liked."
Patrick Patterson added 15 points and four of Kentucky’s 11 blocked shots. Stevenson had 13 points.
Kentucky (14-4, 3-0) has won three straight and 9 of 10 as it makes its bid to move into the Top 25 on Monday for the first time this season.
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Meeks said the two road wins in the conference are a good sign.
"I think it shows a lot about how our team is maturing," Meeks said. "Coming on the road is not an easy place to play anywhere in the SEC. I think coming on the road and getting two wins is big for this team."
Gillespie said he was concerned about opening the season "with some inexperienced guys."
"Maybe they’re growing up," he said.
Georgia coach Dennis Felton had harsh words for his team after Georgia (9-9, 0-3) suffered its fifth straight loss.
Felton said the Bulldogs "did not compete with the kind of toughness that is required."
"We were very, very soft," Felton said. "It was a soft effort and that’s the storyline of this game."
Stevenson, a slim 6-foot-9, 207-pound forward, didn’t use the word soft after banging inside against Georgia’s Albert Jackson (6-11, 265), Jeremy Price (6-8, 264), Trey Thompkins (6-9, 247) and Chris Barnes (6-8, 240).
"Those guys are huge, they’re like buildings with feet," Stevenson said. "They’re hard to get around."
The obvious problem for Georgia is that buildings don’t move very fast.
"Our quickness kind of helped," Stevenson said.
The advantage in quickness near the basket was an effective complement to Kentucky’s hustle all over the court. The Wildcats grabbed 30 defensive rebounds for a 38-33 overall advantage on the boards and had nine steals.
"Those are my kind of teams, gritty, hard-nosed and we defended almost every single perimeter shot that they took," Gillespie said.
Terrance Woodbury led the Bulldogs with eight points while making only 4 of 14 shots from the field. Freshmen Dustin Ware and Thompkins each had seven points.
Georgia made only 2 of its first 13 shots as Kentucky pushed its lead to double figures in the first 10 minutes.
Despite making only 8 of 31 shots in the first half, Georgia managed only five second-chance points. Kentucky had 17 defensive rebounds in the half, compared with only 14 total rebounds for Georgia, and took advantage of that statistic by making high-percentage shots near the basket.
Kentucky finished with a 34-24 advantage in points scored in the paint.
The Wildcats increased their all-time record against Georgia to 110-23, including a 38-15 record in Athens.