Gophers' Smith shows he's a fearless and effective shooter

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 12, 2014 - 12:38 AM

Transfer Malik Smith has made believers of Gophers.

Gophers guard Malik Smith lined up the target and shot over Michigan State’s Kenny Kaminski during the first half. Smith finished with 17 points, second-best on the Gophers.

Photo: Al Goldis • Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Something fundamental has changed about a Malik Smith three-point attempt — at least in the eyes of the high-major college basketball world.

Two months ago, when the Florida International transfer was still trying to adjust to life at the next level and a new role off the bench, Gophers fans — and maybe a few teammates and coaches — would hold their breath when Smith planted his feet beyond the arc.

Now, having established himself as an offensive leader and emotional spark on a Gophers team that fell just short of upsetting No. 5 Michigan State on Saturday, it’s the opponents that are holding their breath, while his teammates are getting the fist pump ready.

Smith showed that again Saturday, sinking five of 10 three-point shots — including two in the final 2:31 of regulation that played a huge role in sending the Gophers to overtime.

“When he first came here, I wasn’t sure what this kid was all about,” center Elliott Eliason said of the 6-2 senior guard. “But man, he has just proven himself to be a great shooter, the best I’ve been around and you know, I’ve been around [former Gopher] Blake Hoffarber. He makes great shots. Every time he shoots it, I think it’s going in. That’s the kind of confidence I have in him. I think other guys think the same thing.”

Smith, who found his footing in the nonconference schedule, has excelled in an area that is hard to quantify and even harder to consistently find success: clutch performances. Against Purdue, Smith hit four free throws in the final 25 seconds — although he uncharacteristically missed his last two — to help seal the victory. Through 17 games, Smith has been the best free-throw shooter on the team, making 87.2 percent. But his biggest impact has come from long range. Smith is making 40 percent (36 of 90) of shots from three-point range, the best on the team among players with more than 20 attempts. He’s shown both the fire for getting the ball in close, late-game situations and the execution with the game on the line.

It was no coincidence that the Gophers offense noticeably stalled midway through the second half, when Smith wasn’t getting as many touches.

“He loves the big stage,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “This is a kid last year who was playing in arenas where there were 500 people. And then he comes to an arena where there is 15,000 screaming people and he didn’t miss a beat. That’s what’s great about Malik, that’s why I thought he could play at this level, and I think he showed that.”

Note

• Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Adreian Payne, who sat out because of a sore right foot, does not have a fracture, but simply didn’t feel that he could compete Saturday.

  • related content

  • Gophers senior guard Malik Smith

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Oakland - J. Lester 7:07 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
Boston
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Ottawa 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Carolina 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Dallas
Colorado 8:00 PM
Calgary
Los Angeles 9:30 PM
San Jose
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is it the right move to replace Ron Gardenhire?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close