Saturday, January 19, 2013

Five Years Ago Today: Dre Smith's Perfect Day Sets an NCAA Record

Five years ago today, in a game at James Madison, George Mason junior guard Dre Smith set the NCAA record for most made three-point field goals in a game without a miss, making all 10 of his attempts and smashing the old record of 9-for-9. (The NCAA record for made treys in a game is 15, and many have exceeded 10 makes, but no one else has done it without a miss).

Smith's perfect performance, on January 19, 2008, has always held a special place in my college basketball memories, as it was the first road game I ever attended as a George Mason student. There was a large amount of smack talk on Facebook and various message boards (particularly revolving around JMU's "Rock the Convo" slogan for the game) and a significant crowd of Mason fans made the two hour trip southwest to the Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va. The smack continued upon our arrival, as many of the Mason students were seated just a few rows from the court, with only a corner separating us from one half of the Madison student section.

Immediately, almost everything went wrong for the Dukes, who fell behind 16-2 less than 4 minutes into the game. The near-capacity crowd was stunned. But JMU responded, hanging tight for the rest of the half, with only a late Patriots push extending the lead beyond 10 to 48-34 at the intermission. Dre Smith's halftime line consisted of 2 made three-pointers and 8 points total, barely gaining attention in what had been a furious half of scoring.

However, the second half was another story. Smith unloaded on three-point baskets at the 17:39, 17:01, and 15:13 marks as the visitors exploded to a 63-46 lead. The Dukes responded with a furious rally of their own, cutting the lead to 73-66 even as Smith bombed them twice more (9:56 and 8:50), at one point doing the only scoring for Mason over a 6-plus minute stretch.

Smith's eighth trey of the night, at the 6:02 mark, was the final straw, sparking a 10-0 run from which the Dukes never recovered. The hometown fans headed for the exits in droves, abandoning the building to a vocal, mocking chorus of "Rock The Convo," as chanted by myself and the other ecstatic Mason students.

Smith lined up another trey at 4:23 to tie the record, then broke it at the 1:30 mark. The final score was 96-75, led by Smith's 34 points. The Convo had definitely been rocked, although not in the way the hosts had intended. It wasn't just Smith who had a hot night, as the Patriots shot almost 66% as a team (for an astounding 1.50 points per possession), with John Vaughan scoring 20 points while Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell each added 16.

Some of us, myself included, were unaware of the history we had just witnessed until after the game. (Was it 7? 8? We'd lost track). The whispers started as we were filing out of the gym, as the word spread. No, we weren't crazy, he really hadn't missed a trey all night. Better yet, it was an NCAA record, someone asserted. The word spread. It wasn't 8. It wasn't even 9. He'd hit 10!

The next season, 2008-09, the NCAA moved the three-point line back one foot to it's current 20-foot, 9-inch specification. So can we call that the Dre Smith Rule? Not really, since the change was first announced in 2007, but if there were any remaining questions about whether the collegiate three-pointer needed a rule change, Smith erased them. And now, with the difficulty increased, it's a record that could last for a long, long time.

All ten three-pointers, from multiple angles:

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