Booneville, Miss. - Bryce Smith pieced together the first great performance of what he hopes is a breakout sophomore season with the Northeast Mississippi Community College men's basketball program.
Smith broke or tied two career-highs in putting together a double-double in a 92-68 victory over Volunteer State (Tenn.) Community College on Tuesday, November 14 inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
He shattered his previous personal best mark in rebounding with 16 boards, including nine on the offensive glass. Smith also tied a career-high that was set last year in a game at Northwest Mississippi Community College with 13 points.
"The coaches told me to be aggressive on my post moves and I think I did real well," Smith said. "This gives me courage and confidence. I think we're going to keep pushing and playing hard."
The 6-8, 225-pound forward, who was one of only three players that returned from the 2016-17 Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division championship team, also added two rim-rattling dunks to his stellar night.
Smith's first slam was a two-handed effort off an offensive rebound with 12:15 left in the opening half. He capped his sensational evening after the break by taking a nice bounce pass from Conner McKay and then jamming the ball into the hoop over a Pioneer defender.
Denzel McDuffey had the only other dunk of the matchup for the Tigers (3-0) when he intercepted a Volunteer State pass and raced uncontested down the court for a strong one-hand slam early in the first half.
The Pioneers led for only 22 seconds in the entire game. McDuffey gave Northeast its initial double-digit advantage with a jumper that was assisted by McKay with 11:04 left before the intermission.
The Tigers used a quick 7-0 run moments later to give themselves more breathing room. McDuffey completed an old-fashioned three-point play while JaQuante Bell and Antares Gwyn had baskets in the post.
Volunteer State (1-4) actually cut its deficit to just eight points at 39-31 with 4:04 to go, but Northeast scored eight of the final 12 points in the half to take a 47-35 lead into the locker room.
The Tigers eventually put the contest out of reach for the Pioneers around five minutes into the second half with an 8-0 run that featured five more points from McDuffey and a steal plus bucket by Thomas Cain.
"Every game for us with a bunch of new guys is a learning curve," said Northeast head coach Cord Wright. "We emphasized coming out in the second half and putting them away. Tonight we did that which was a sign of growth."
All but one Northeast player that dressed scored against Volunteer State and a vast majority received at least 10 minutes of action. McDuffey had a team-high 17 points to pace all Tigers for the second time in three outings.
"Coach (Wright) just told us to come out here and just play hard and don't let your man score," McDuffey said. "We've got a long road in front of us and we're just getting started."
McKay also added 12 points on four three-pointers. Northeast committed a season-low 12 turnovers, recorded 27 assists on 36 field goals and accumulated a plus-13 edge in rebounding.
"This team is just trying to learn to play together and I thought it was important to get some guys some reps," said Wright. "We just have to do the things we're supposed to do and it's about us getting better everyday."
The Tigers complete their season opening four-game home stretch on Thursday, November 16 against Tennessee Preparatory Academy. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the City of Hospitality.