Smith's growth was particularly apparent on Wednesday night, when the Zion, Ill. native scored 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting in No. 2/3 Ohio State's 86-48 win over Bryant. Already the Buckeyes' leading scorer on the season, Smith upped his average to 12.8 points per game as he led his team past the Bulldogs of the Northeast Conference.
"As a senior, I put a lot of work into my game offensively over the summer. My confidence is off the charts," said Smith. "My teammates are able to find me wide-open. A lot of teams for some reason are helping off of me and I'm getting great looks at the basket. I'm just driving my legs and trying to get as much arc under the ball and it's falling."
Despite the lopsided finish, Bryant actually hung with the Buckeyes for the better part of the first eight minutes of the game, before a LaQuinton Ross 3-point shot stretched Ohio State's lead to 22-11. After the Bulldogs stayed within striking distance, only trailing by a tally of 28-20 with eight minutes of action remaining in the half, the Buckeyes closed the stanza on a 15-3 run, not allowing a single point from Bryant in the final five minutes of action before taking a 43-23 lead into the locker room.
"Dyami Starks is a prolific scorer and you know he's going to get shots up and he's going to make a lot of shots," Smith said. "We just tried to limit his shots and limit the good looks that he got off the basket. We forced him into some tough shots and were able to get the rebounds and were off to the races from there."
On the night, Starks tallied 16 points, but was held to a 5-for-15 shooting performance from the field. As a whole, the Buckeyes limited Bryant to a 27.6 shooting percentage, forcing 19 turnovers and recording 13 steals. As a whole, Matta was pleased with his squad's effort, after what he felt was a lackadaisical performance against Central Connecticut State over the weekend.
"That was one of the things that we talked about in shoot around and coming out of the Central Connecticut State game was trying to sustain intensity, trying to sustain effort," Matta said. "Keeping the focus on the things that we need to get better at. I thought we did a pretty decent job with that."
As the Buckeyes stretched their lead to 38 points in the second half, Matta was able to insert little-used walk-on Jake Lorbach into the lineup with more than three minutes remaining in the game. The Elyria, Ohio native didin't disappoint, scoring a career high six points with a breakaway dunk, a turnaround jumper and a bank shot in the paint as both the crowd and his teammates went wild.
"I'm happy for Jake that the ball went in for him," Matta said. "Every single day, he comes in, he works. Those moves that he made, he's working on them every single day. That is exciting for him and exciting for the guys, because they know how hard he works."
With Bryant in the books, the Buckeyes will now turn their attention to an 8:15 pm tipoff with North Dakota State for their second contest in the BlackRock Gotham Classic.