Can Jabari Smith 'take it up a notch' at Arkansas?
Auburn's freshman phenom only had 7 points on 7 shots at UGA. But Smith has already shown a tendency to bounce back quickly.
PF Jabari Smith (Matthew Shannon/Auburn Athletics)
With 15:28 left in the second half last Saturday, Jabari Smith started a half-court set for Auburn by going down into the corner.
Smith had a six-inch advantage on his matchup, Georgia top scorer Kario Oquendo, so he tried one of his go-to moves — a pump fake, quickly followed by a step inside and a pull-up jumper. The shot drew right iron and landed in the hands of Devan Cambridge, who was unable to capitalize on a reverse layup attempt.
Smith’s midrange jumper was his first shot attempt of the second half and only the fifth of the game. He didn’t take another one until 12:02 of game time later, when a corner 3-pointer of his rimmed out. Auburn had only scored 16 points between the attempts.
The freshman phenom would get one more shot attempt in the game, a putback off a miss from fellow forward Jaylin Williams on a BLOB — baseline out of bounds — play.
Auburn would escape with a 74-72 win over Georgia. Smith only took seven shots and scored seven points. He was responsible for just 10.3% of Auburn’s field goal attempts, well below his season-long mark of 26.6%.
"Not sure,” Bruce Pearl said when asked about the cause of Smith’s quiet offensive performance. “I didn't get him enough good looks.”
It was a puzzling performance from Smith, who ranks inside the top 10 in the SEC in (deep breath) points per game, field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage, field goals made, field goals attempted, 3-pointers made, PER, offensive win shares, offensive box/plus minus, offensive rating and usage percentage.
Throughout his freshman season, Smith has showcased the wide-ranging and, frankly, unfair offensive game that has many experts believing he will be the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
So to have such a quiet game against the SEC’s worst defense was quite unexpected.
A day after Auburn’s road win at Georgia, Smith took to Twitter and appeared to give himself some motivation for the next game:
Then, on Monday, Pearl could only smile and crack a self-deprecating joke when he was asked about how Smith was handling himself after the Georgia game.
“Just the same,” Pearl said. “Just very much going about his routine. Very much the same. If he had a better coach, he’d get more shots. But he’s got to overcome me. The thing I love about him would be — that’s on me that he only got seven shots, as opposed to, let’s say, he got 27 shots and shot a bad percentage.
“His job is to take and make good shots and my job is to get him more of those, and I’m obviously not doing a very good job of it.”