That practice paid off tonight.
Smith, who has struggled with his shot this season made 5 of 6 three-pointers on his way to a season-high 17 points, igniting the University of Louisville's second-half surge in its 73-49 win over Morehead State in front of 19,366 fans at Freedom Hall.
"I don't think many people spent Christmas night that way," said the 6-foot-1 sophomore guard with a smile, recounting his late-night shooting practice to reporters in the locker room afterward.
But Smith didn't just do it with his offense. He teamed with junior guard Andre McGee to turn up the defensive heat too and break open what had been a three-point game at halftime.
"Once again Andre and Jerry helped us break this game open with incredible pressure in the backcourt," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "That was the difference in the game, we stopped the three and played much better defense."
Leading just 30-27 at halftime the Cards (8-3) turned 13 second-half Morehead miscues into 10 points while also clipping the Eagles' shooting wings. Morehead (4-7) shot just 35.3 percent (6 of 17) from the field and was only 1 of 5 (20 percent) from three-point range after intermission.
Terrence Williams tied Smith for scoring honors with 17 points and also dished out a team-high seven assists. Derrick Caracter added 11 points and nine rebounds as UofL outrebounded Morehead – which didn't have a starter taller than 6-5 – 32 to 26.
Freshman reserve Kenneth Faried led Morehead with 11 points. Meanwhile Morehead State's second-leading scorer Maze Stallworth, who scored 34 points in his previous game, tallied only five points on 1 of 9 shooting.
Smith was just the opposite. He was 6 of 8 from the field, including his near-perfect three-point shooting.
"It's been falling for me in practice, but in the game it hasn't really been going in," said Smith, who came into the game shooting just 36 percent from the field, including 31.3 percent from three-point range. Last season he averaged 48.4 percent and 47.8 percent in those two categories.
"I've been telling him lately to shoot, telling him not to get discouraged because we all know he's a great shooter," McGee said.
It was Smith and McGee who led Louisville's 15-1 run early in the second half that broke open the game. Smith scored eight points in that spurt on two threes and a layup while McGee recorded two of his game-high four steals in that span.
"Jerry said he was going to have a big game today," Edgar Sosa said. "He said, ‘I've got to have a big game today,' then he went out in the second half and lit it up.'"
In the first half UofL looked sluggish, despite an appearance from Muhammad Ali. The Cards could never deliver a knockout blow to Morehead in the first half.
The Eagles kept it close thanks to solid shooting. They made 10 of their 21 field goal tries (47.6 percent), including 5 of 11 from three-point range (45.5 percent).
"First give Louisville credit, in the second half they turned it up a notch or two," Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall said. "Offensively in the first half we did a good job. In the second half, like any coach Pitino team, their defense is what wins games for them.
"I thought our kids played extremely hard for about 20 minutes, (but) they took us out of things in the second half."
UofL hosts Iona, coached by former Cardinal assistant Kevin Willard at 3 p.m. Saturday.