It seems that Sean Smiley has a new fan in Tulane coach Dave Dickerson.
After the University at Buffalo junior guard dropped in a career-high 26 points in the Bulls' 65-51 win over the Green Wave on Thursday, the Tulane coach called Smiley's performance, "probably one of the better games I've seen in college basketball."
Now consider the source: Dickerson played at Maryland with the late Len Bias and was an assistant coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference for nine years before taking the job at Tulane. The Green Wave knew all about the willowy, streak shooting Smiley but couldn't do anything to contain him.
"Obviously, that's great to hear someone say that about how you play," Smiley said. "I came out there just like every other game. I tried to prepare beforehand and try and take the shots that were coming to me. Fortunately, they were going in tonight. I was getting some great screens from our big men and they were freeing me up. I was open most of the time."
Smiley came off the bench and drained 8 of 10 shots and all five of his three-pointers and free throws in just 23 minutes. UB coach Reggie Witherspoon was concerned that former coach Chris Hawkins, now on the bench alongside Dickerson at Tulane, would give away all the Bulls' nuances after coaching at UB for seven seasons. Tulane knew so much about Smiley that Dickerson rattled off his numbers as if he were an employee of Stats, Inc.
"We talked about [Smiley] for three days," Dickerson said. "He had 42 field goals, 30 of those field goals were threes and he was playing only 15 minutes a game. We looked at that as a coaching staff and as a team. We have to pay attention to that. If you look at their stats, he was the one guy who did us in. . . . The guy had a career night and if we didn't know about him I'll have to fire my assistant coach."
Still, Smiley's outburst Thursday was somewhat unexpected. He came in shooting 28.8 percent from three-point range (9 of 32) and was 1 for 2 in the Bulls' last game against Canisius and 2 for 8 two games ago at Pittsburgh. He asked about the last time he was in such a zone. "In high school, maybe," he said.
In the first half Smiley scored 14 points, including 4 of 4 from long range.
"In the first half we were kind of in a lull and so we ran a few plays for him," said sophomore guard Byron Mulkey, who handed out a game-high seven assists. "The big men were setting good screens and he hit his first couple and we were just rolling from there."
Smiley was the lone player in double figures for the Bulls, who also treated the crowd of 1,887 with a stellar defensive effort.
"I thought defensively we were pretty good," said Witherspoon. "I thought that was the difference in the game."
The Bulls led, 37-18, with nine seconds left in the first half after Smiley came off a screen to drain a three and took a 37-20 lead into halftime. The Green Wave (3-2) cut the lead to 48-42 after a dunk by David Gomez before the Bulls went on a 12-0 run to push the lead to 60-42 on a jumper by Smiley.
Tulane made only 2 for 11 from three-point range and shot just 34 percent (17 of 50) for the game. The Green Wave was led in scoring by Kevin Sims with 15 points and Gomez with 13.
The Bulls (4-3) wrap up their three-game homestand with a game Saturday at 7 p.m. against Evansville.