Harris and Smith-Rivera are no strangers to each other. While the two have never been on the same team, they have faced off in the past and actually train together in the off-season. With Harris checking in at No. 14 in the nation and Smith-Rivera at No. 23, it figured to be a fun battle to watch, and both came in excited to face the other.
"Me and Gary go way back so you always get hyped up to play against other guys who are just as competitive and just as good," said Smith-Rivera about facing off with Harris. "Tonight I was anxious to face him."
Harris added, "He's a great player. I knew he was going to bring it so I wanted to bring it to. I just like playing against top talent. He is a great player and I think we make each other better."
Early on it was Harris that got the best of the action. While Smith-Rivera missed his first three shots, and his first three deep jumpers, Harris was converting. Harris scored nine quick points before picking up his second foul which put him on the bench for a little while.
After the start Smith-Rivera managed to find his stroke in the third quarter. Smith-Rivera scored 10 points on his first five shot attempts in the quarter to help North Central expand the lead.
For Smith-Rivera he said that he simply had to see the ball go through the net before he was able to get into a rhythm.
"I think I was pretty sloppy," said Smith-Rivera. "I came out rushing my shot a little bit. Sometimes you have to see it go in to get a feel for it."
One interesting thing is that when Harris and Smith-Rivera guarded each other man-to-man, neither had a whole lot of success. Smith-Rivera was able to keep Harris out of the lane with his strength and savvy while Harris was able to keep Smith-Rivera in front of him by using his length and athleticism.
"It is hard to defend him," said Harris of defending Smith-Rivera. "He can shoot and he can drive. You really can't stop him, you can only try to contain him. He is one of the smartest players I have ever played against."
Smith-Rivera said he that knew people were expecting them to take over the game when going against each other, so they both were doing their best to make things interesting for the fans.
"I think everybody expected us to steal the show and I think that is what we came out to do, to take over the game," said Smith-Rivera.
At one point in time late in the second half the two of them scored on each other matching points. It seemed that every other possession one was ahead of the other in points for the game.
When asked if they were keeping a running total in their heads, Smith-Rivera said, "Not really, I would just seem him make a shot and know I needed to make a play."
Harris had virtually the same story, but did admit with a laugh that the two of them did have a little good natured talking back and forth.
"I wasn't trying to keep track," said Harris with a smile. "Maybe the first couple of points when I scored I let him know, but mostly I just wanted the win."
In the end the two of them put up nearly identical stat lines. Harris finished with 23 points on 7-14 shooting overall. He was 3-7 from deep and 6-7 from the foul line. Smith-Rivera finished with 21 points on 7-14 shooting overall. He was 2-5 from three and 5-9 from the foul line.
While individually there was no choice but to call this matchup a draw, on a team level it was Smith-Rivera and North Central who pulled out the two point win to remain undefeated at 5-0. It was the first loss of the season for Hamilton Southeastern.