Missouri forward Mitchell Smith hoisted a heavily-contested three-pointer from the right wing early in the first half, and groans from the student section arose almost immediately after a foreseeable brick.
Smith turned their jeers into cheers for the remainder of the Tigers’ 77-75 loss to Temple Tuesday night.
Just a couple possessions after his questionable shot attempt, Smith set a screen and spotted up at the right wing. A swing pass from Jordan Geist found him, and he buried a wide-open shot from beyond the arc.
Previous to Tuesday’s game, Smith had attempted just one three-pointer in his career, coming in this year’s season opener against Central Arkansas. But his triple against Temple was the first one to find the bottom of the net, proving just how much him and the Missouri coaching staff trust him to take those long-range shots.
“He’s been working on [expanding his range],” Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We’ve spent a lot of time with him working on it, and it’s really a matter of him having the confidence within his shot because if they give him the shot, he’s gotta take the shot. He’s not bad at going off the dribble, either.”
Three made free throws followed shortly after his first collegiate three-ball and with less than seven minutes played, the redshirt sophomore led the Tigers in scoring with six points.
Smith would go stagnant offensively the rest of the contest, but made his presence felt by gobbling up four rebounds and playing some tough-nosed defense in 17 minutes of action — the second highest total of his career. If it weren’t for a missed free throw early in the first half, the young power forward would have tied his career high set against Alabama A&M two years ago.
Smith didn’t see much time in Missouri’s previous two games against Oregon State and No. 12 Kansas State, but that didn’t seem to matter as he got back into his groove Tuesday night.
“I think [Smith contributing] is very important,” Martin said. “He’s a long, athletic guy. I thought Mitch [Smith] was solid.”
Martin’s team missed Smith all of last season with a torn ACL he suffered against LSU late two seasons ago. He’s showed promise of being a dynamic stretch-four producing points from midrange-in, but has kept Missouri fans waiting to see what he can do, as he was sidelined for nearly two years.
With the lack of depth at Smith’s position, Missouri would surely benefit from his presence if he can continue to prove his worth as a reliable stretch-four off the bench.