Booneville, Miss. - Bryce Smith's uptick in production continues for the Northeast Mississippi Community College men's basketball team at a time of the season when it is needed the most.
Smith tied a career-high in points and recorded his second consecutive double-double to guide the Tigers to an 88-70 victory over Coahoma Community College on Thursday, February 1 inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
The 6-8, 225-pound forward had 20 points on an efficient 9 of 14 showing from the floor. Smith also had a game-high 11 rebounds, including five offensive boards, with only one turnover in 28 minutes of action.
"I had to be physical in the paint and make the easy layups," said Smith. "I'm just grateful. I've been working constantly everyday. I had to finish every pass that my guards gave me."
Smith played a key role in helping Northeast (14-4, 5-2) start the game on an 11-0 run over a span of nearly three minutes. He made six points in that stretch while Denzel McDuffey had the other five.
The Tigers, who are receiving votes in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I rankings, never trailed thanks to their torrid opening stretch. The closest Coahoma came to erasing its deficit was five points at 20-15 with 11:50 remaining in the first half.
Northeast pushed its advantage back to double-digits at 31-19 following a three-pointer from McDuffey at the 7:27 mark. Back-to-back baskets by JaQuante Bell and Antares Gwyn allowed the Tigers to take a 42-32 edge at the intermission.
McDuffey got Northeast rolling right out of the locker room with a personal 7-0 scoring spurt. It started with an offensive rebound and putback and ended with a make from long distance that pushed the Tigers ahead by a 49-34 margin.
The lead remained at 15 points for Northeast following an old-fashioned three-point play from Bell with 11:48 to go. But things got interesting just a few minutes later after the visiting Tigers (3-15, 1-6) cut their shortfall to 71-64.
However, the home standing Tigers responded with a 10-1 run that gave them some breathing room. Smith was again a major factor in that sequence with six points for Northeast, which leaped ahead 81-65 with only four minutes left in the contest.
"I think we're talented enough that we find different ways to win," Northeast head coach Cord Wright said. "That's the way we're going to have to play. I thought our guards handled the ball well. I think we have good enough bigs to finish out the way we need to."
McDuffey tallied his third 20-plus point performance in his last four outings. He had a game-best 24 points, which was only four points off his career-high mark, with nine rebounds, four assists, four steals and two highlight reel blocks.
"It was great to get some rest and come back out here and get a huge W in conference play on our home floor," said McDuffey. "We locked in and kept going forward by playing defense."
Bell rounded out the list of double figure scorers for the Tigers with 17 points. Northeast had a plus-16 margin on the boards and shot a solid 50.7 percent from the floor for the entire matchup.
The Tigers had 24 assists on 35 made field goals. Givens guided that effort with 10 dimes, which tied a career-high, while Felix Hayes dished out six assists as well in the victorious endeavor.
Northeast continues Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division play on Monday, February 5 at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 7 p.m. at Howard Coliseum.