Talk about being in a zone …
Story by Chris Graham
I realized it at about number five.
“I don’t think he’s missed yet,” I said to the reporter sitting next to me on press row after watching George Mason guard Dre Smith sink a three in the second half of the Patriots’ 96-75 win at James Madison Saturday night.
Turns out that he hadn’t – and that we were witnessing history in the making.
Smith ended up making five more threes on the night without missing a shot from beyond the arc – and his 10-for-10 performance from long range set an NCAA single-game record.
And it wasn’t like there weren’t hands in his face on any of the shots, either.
“He hit a lot of those with my hands in his face, NBA-range,” JMU point guard Pierre Carter said after Smith lit him up for 34 points in 28 minutes.
“I mean, the kid, when he’s shooting that good from that deep, you’ve just got to give him a hand. You can’t do nothing about it. You’ve got to give him a hand on his back and say, Good job,” Carter said, summing up the feelings of many in the postgame.
“Ten-for-ten?!” Mason coach Jim Larranaga exclaimed to Smith after being handed the box score as the two headed into the postgame press conference.
“I didn’t know it during the game,” the coach told reporters moments later. “I knew that he had made several early, but he had gotten into foul trouble. He didn’t play that much in the first half.”
Smith was actually only 2-for-2 from long range in the first half because of that early foul trouble. The first one, though, set the tone for the night – Dukes coach Dean Keener said the game plan coming out of the locker room was to double passes into the corner on George Mason’s first possession, but the Patriots were able to pass out of the oncoming double team to an open Smith on the right wing for a 22-footer that propelled an early 11-0 run that JMU would never recover from.
Smith, for his part, was about as low-key as you could expect someone to be in a press conference after being as otherworldly zoned as he was on the court.
“I was just playing. I didn’t even know. They had to tell me after the game,” Smith said.
“I feed off my teammates, and we were all playing hard. The way we played defense tonight was good. That’s the way we play. We play good defense like that, you score points. So that’s what I pretty much did – I fed off our defense,” Smith said.
JMU forward Juwann James playfully grabbed Smith on Mason’s last possession and said something to him as the final seconds ticked down. Smith said James “told me to stop shooting,” while James remembered asking Smith “how many threes he was planning on hitting.”
“The guy had a career night tonight. I mean, he did good shooting the ball. I’ll have to compliment him on that. You know, he had open looks, sometimes guys were in his face, and he still knocked down the shots. Those were great shots. Nothing you can say about that,” James said.
Keener was as well at a loss for words.
“That’s clearly one of the best individual performances that I’ve seen. And I’ve been around college basketball 24 years,” Keener said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.