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Smith hits key buckets, but not pleased with rivalry-game effort

by Richard Davenport | February 2, 2022 at 10:13 p.m.
Arkansas basketball commit Nick Smith watches the Razorbacks' Red-White game on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, during the first half of play at Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville.

ESPN 5-star and Arkansas signee Nick Smith hit the shots that sent North Little Rock into overtime and on to victory over Little Rock Central on Tuesday, but afterward he was not too pleased.

He felt the No. 1 Wildcats underperformed against the Tigers. 

“I’m not too happy about how the game went,” Smith said. “We had a lot of mental lapses, but I’m pretty sure this week moving on forward we’re going to have a couple of hard practices.” 

Smith, 6-5, 185 pounds, is averaging 23.6 points, 6 rebounds and 6.3 assists this season. He had 29 points (14 of 15 free throws) against Central, which fell to 9-9 overall and 2-3 in conference play.

He hit a shot at the end of regulation to tie the game 69-69. 

“I was just trying to put my team in the best position, because my shot wasn’t falling, so I knew for a fact my floater was going to go in eventually and it went in," Smith said. 

ESPN’s No. 6 player nationally wants the ball in pressure situations and that showed when he hit the game-winner in overtime. 

“I obviously wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to win the game, because I’m going to bet on myself every time,” Smith said. 

Smith was named the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas Preps Underclassman of the Year after averaging 21.3 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals per game as a sophomore for Sylvan Hills, and was named the All-Arkansas Preps Player of the Year after averaging 25 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists as a junior.

He, along with senior teammate Corey Washington, visited Fayetteville for the Razorbacks’ 77-68 victory over West Virginia in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday. 

“I was very comfortable,” he said. “I know the guys like my brothers. Walking around campus, it was a good thing and hopefully I'll be back there soon.” 

Smith, who also had offers from Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, Kansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Texas and other programs, said he and members of ESPN’s No. 3-ranked class are ready to help Arkansas continue winning. 

“Next year we’re just trying to come in and win games,” Smith said. “A lot of people aren’t happy when we’re not winning and I know for sure I’m not happy when we’re not winning. Just go in and buy into coach Muss’ system and just play hard and play for the state.

"It’s big for us.”

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