For most people, a 31-point Ole Miss win over Southeast Missouri two days before Christmas didn’t mean all that much.
Senior guard Terence Smith isn’t most people.
The 6-foot-4 Smith stepped in for injured starter Jarvis Summers and had his breakout game as a Rebel. He scored a season-high 16 points, including making three 3-pointers in four attempts, on 4 of 7 shooting from the field.
It was a much-needed boost for Smith, who transferred to Ole Miss from UT-Martin for his final college season. A career 1,000-point scorer and 40 percent 3-point shooter for the Skyhawks, he had made just 1 of 14 3s prior to the game.
“I had a bigger role that game because Jarvis was out,” Smith said of his only start of the year. “Things started to click.”
Smith is averaging just 4.3 points per game 1.3 rebounds on the year, but the raw numbers aren’t indicative of his true value.
He’s emerged as a consistent perimeter threat for an Ole Miss team that needs his scoring. Smith has made 14 of the 28 3s he’s put up since Southeast Missouri, along with settling in nicely as the primary backup to Summers.
Ole Miss, winners of five straight games, is 16-7 (7-3 SEC) on the year. The Rebels face off against Florida in Gainesville tonight at 6 p.m. on ESPN.
“It’s been huge,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said of Smith’s contributions. “I think he’s one of our better on-ball defenders. He has an understanding of where to be off the ball as well. He’s starting to make shots. He’s making timely shots for us.
“The thing I think he brings to the table more than anything else is the fact that he doesn’t turn the ball over. He makes good decisions with it, gets the ball to the right people at the right times.”
Smith has only 11 turnovers in 16.8 minutes per game – far and away the least amount of any Ole Miss regular.
In short, he’s figured out his role and he’s playing it well.
“At first, it was different. I’m getting used to what’s expected,” Smith said. “The chemistry of the team, we’re rolling.
And Smith is a big reason why.
Life After Frazier:
Florida guard Michael Frazier II put on a scoring clinic in a losing effort at Ole Miss late last month.
He won’t get a chance at an encore performance.
Frazier, who totaled 27 points on 7 of 11 shooting in a 72-71 Rebel win, has been ruled out for tonight’s game with a high-ankle sprain.
For the season, he leads the Gators (12-11, 5-5 SEC) in scoring (13.2 ppg), minutes played (701), 3-pointers (55) and free throw shooting (87.7 percent). He ranks second in rebounds (105) and steals (31) and third in assists (36).
“He’s their main scoring option,” Kennedy said. “He’s a guy that’s a veteran, and he’s made big shots for them. They go to him at the end of the shot clock.”
With Frazier sidelined, Florida head coach Billy Donovan will look to junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith and others to pick up the slack. Finney-Smith is second on the team with 12.9 points per game.
“It's not one guy that's going to make up for a player like Michael,” Donovan said. “We'll need some other guys to contribute, help.”
Tonight will be a homecoming of sorts for Ole Miss junior guard Stefan Moody.
Moody hails from nearby Kissimmee, Fla., and played his freshman season at Florida Atlantic, where he was named Sun Belt Conference of the Year. He transferred to Kilgore Community College a year later.
Fast forward to 2015 and Moody leads Ole Miss in scoring at 15.5 points per game. He was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 17 points, 4.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals in wins over Texas A&M and Auburn last week.
“I think his mindset is in a good place right now,” Kennedy said. “He’s coming off SEC Player of the Week. He’s battled through most everything. He’s been in hostile environments. He’ll be excited because he is playing in his home state; I’m sure he’ll have a lot of family and friends there. I just think he’s in a better place mentally because he’s been productive and his confidence is where we want to see it.”
Ole Miss is No. 39 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA and safely in the NCAA tournament discussion.
Junior guard Anthony Perez can at least claim partial credit for the climb.
The resurgent Perez played arguably his best game in the Rebels’ 86-79 win at Auburn on Saturday, totaling season highs in both minutes (22) and points (10). He also recorded five rebounds, three steals and two assists.
The 6-foot-9, 205-pound Perez reemerged as a viable bench option in the last meeting with the Gators. In 12 minutes, Perez, who didn’t play in four of the first five SEC games, scored six points and grabbed five rebounds. His only 3 was a big one, tying the score late in the second half.
“That was the first sign of life for him,” Kennedy said. “From there, his role has continued to grow. He’s coming off his best minutes of the season at Auburn, was very active. When he’s like that, he’s disruptive.”
Random Notes: Respected bracketologists Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm are both currently projecting Ole Miss as a No. 10 seed in the Midwest (Omaha) region of their respective NCAA tournament brackets. Lunardi has the Rebels playing No. 7 seed Indiana, while Palm currently has SMU. … Ole Miss is 3-2 against the RPI top 35, including wins over No. 25 Arkansas, No. 28 Cincinnati and No. 33 Texas A&M. Florida is ranked No. 67 coming into Thursday’s game. … The Rebels’ strength of schedule ranks 30th in the nation according to ESPN.com. They’ve faced eight teams in ESPN.com’s top 50 basketball power index, posting a 4-4 mark. … Thursday’s’ game will be the 107th meeting between the Rebels and the Gators. Florida holds a 62-44 lead in the series.