Thornton a thorny problem

A careful examination of this week's SEC basketball statistics reveals that the Tennessee Vols may be bracing for the second coming of Jodie Meeks.

As Vol fans are painfully aware, Kentucky's Meeks hung 54 points on Tennessee in a 90-72 Big Blue victory Jan. 13 at Thompson-Boling Arena. LSU's Marcus Thornton, who visits TBA Wednesday night, lacks Meeks' reputation but is eerily similar in some respects.

Meeks, a 6-4 208-pound junior guard, is shooting 48.6 percent from the field. Thornton, a 6-4 205-pound senior guard, is shooting 48.3. Meeks is hitting a robust 45.3 percent from 3-point range. Thornton is hitting at a 39.8 clip. Meeks leads Kentucky's scoring at 26.1 points per game. Thornton leads LSU's scoring at 18.9 ppg.

The big difference between the two shooting stars is that Kentucky relies much more heavily on Meeks than LSU does on Thornton. Meeks averages 33.9 minutes per game, most in the SEC. Thornton plays 5½ minutes per game less, 28.4. Meeks has attempted 327 field goals, Thornton just 269. Meeks has launched 172 3-pointers, Thornton just 98. Meeks has shot 139 free throws, Thornton just 88.

Thornton hasn't put up 54 points on anyone this year – as Meeks has – but the LSU standout had a 33-point outing vs. Southeast Louisiana and a 32-point effort against Troy. His two most recent performances saw him score 31 against Mississippi State last Wednesday and 30 vs. Xavier last Saturday.

"I haven't seen him as much as I've seen Jodie Meeks yet but he would be somebody you need to cover and identify like Jodie Meeks," Vol head man Bruce Pearl concedes. "The difference that jumps out at me right now is that LSU has got more weapons than Kentucky.

"Kentucky has got two tremendous weapons offensively in Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks. Whatever comes anybody else's way comes their way and they take whatever's left."

Here's another interesting stat: Whereas Meeks accounts for one-third of the Wildcats' points, Thornton accounts for just one-fourth of the Tigers' scoring.

"LSU will do more (play calls) for Tasmin Mitchell and some other guys," Pearl notes. "They're just a little bit more balanced in their attack, and yet Marcus Thornton is absolutely capable of going off ... and he has."

Given the defensive lapse they had against Meeks three weeks ago, the Vols undoubtedly are determined to prevent a relapse Wednesday night against Thornton.

"I would say he probably will receive the same level of attention, even though LSU has got more weapons," Pearl says. "Would I anticipate him taking 22 shots? I don't know that I would. My guess is that ... LSU's offense would be a little bit more spread around."

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