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Smart’s record-breaking performance leads men’s basketball to road win over Rice

Smart’s record-breaking performance leads men’s basketball to road win over Rice

DENTON TEXAS, January 6: University of North Texas Mean Green Men’s Basketball v Old Dominion University at the Super Pit in Denton on January 6, 2018 (Photo Rick Yeatts Photography/Colin Mitchell)

Smart’s record-breaking performance leads men’s basketball to road win over Rice
January 13
17:22 2018

Sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart could not believe his eyes. He ran to the corner against Rice University’s 3-2 matchup zone as the offense ran their set, and time after time the Owls left him open.

He hit his third 3-pointer, then his fourth, then he got up to six — but still, nothing changed. The Rice defense continuously found itself with a late contest or no contest at all as Smart nailed his seventh and eighth 3-pointers to tie a school record.

“[I wasn’t surprised] at first, because we knew how their 3-2 zone was, they help off the baseline,” Smart said. “But in the second half when me and DJ were open in the corners, it was surprising. Like, ‘they’re still leaving us open’.”

Rose continued to take advantage of the situation, swishing his the ninth deep ball with about five minutes left — but Rice was still in range. The tenth 3-pointer was essentially the dagger as it put North Texas up 80-74 with under two minutes left.

The Mean Green (10-8, 3-2 Conference USA) held on for an 85-78 win with Smart dropping 42 points on 11-of-22 shooting Saturday afternoon at Rice.

“[We had] great spacing and Ryan, Allante and Mike did a good job of delivering the basketball and driving,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “[In the second half] we were able to move the basketball quicker and it got us some wide open looks and got Rose going and that was the difference in the game.”

The other beneficiary of Rice’s (4-14, 1-4) lackadaisical 3-point defense was sophomore guard DJ Draper, who came entered the day averaging 2.4 points per game. He had only played in one of the previous four C-USA games.

Draper scored a career-high 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting and 6-of-9 shooting from deep.

“He’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever coached, maybe the best,” McCasland said of Draper. “He just makes open shots and his deal is confidence and stepping out there knowing that we need him.”

Draper stepped up as he essentially filled the shoes of sophomore guard A.J. Lawson, who was out with a sprained wrist.

While Lawson’s size and defensive abilities were missed, as was evident from Rice’s 50 percent shooting mark, Draper competed defensively and stretched the floor in ways few lineups do with him on the bench.

With that spacing, the driving lanes were opened up — not for scoring inside, but for another open three. North Texas ended the game with the second most 3-pointers made in program history as the team went 17-for-31 from behind the arc with 17 assists.

“Ryan did a good job of penetrating and drawing two and kicking it out to us,” Smart said. “[Allante] did a nice job too of finding me and DJ, and DJ gave me a couple passes as well so everyone contributed tonight.”

The Mean Green defense was shaky at times as Rice guard Connor Cashaw scored 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting and Ako Adams pitched in 20 of his own, shooting 7-of-12 in the game.

“That was the disappointing part of this win,” McCasland said. “We didn’t get stops guarding the ball. There’s some grit we’re missing and as a team, we have to keep getting better on that side of the ball.”

Smart’s 42 points rank No.5 in school history for a single game and breaking the 3-point record felt like something that was only a matter of time away as the sophomore shoots over 40 percent from behind the arc on the year.

After his record-breaking performance, Smart is already ready to do it again.

“Finally,” Smart said with a laugh. “I just made shots and was fortunate enough to break the record and hopefully next time I can break it again.”

Featured image: University of North Texas Mean Green Men’s Basketball v Old Dominion University at the Super Pit in Denton on January 6, 2018 (Photo Rick Yeatts Photography/Colin Mitchell)

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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