Murfreesboro product plays on, helps end others' NCAA dreams

Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 12:00am

DENVER – Kevin Smith is headed back to his native Texas – and he is taking the Richmond Spiders with him.

The Richmond guard dished out six assists as the 12th-seeded Spiders defeated No. 13 seed Morehead State 65-48 on Saturday in the third round of the Southwest Region at the Pepsi Center. Richmond (29-7) advances to the Sweet 16 next weekend in San Antonio, which is 225 miles from Huntsville, Texas, where Smith was born.

He lived in Texas briefly before moving to Florida and Louisiana and then to Murfreesboro – where he spent the last three years of high school. He graduated from Riverdale in 2007.

The senior's father still lives in Huntsville and his sister stays in Houston.

Road trip?

“Oh, they are going – most likely,” Smith said with a laugh. “This feeling is indescribable. When you are a little kid, you watch the tournament and you want to get to that next level, get to that the next part of the tournament. Finally getting here, you have to realize your work is not done and that is the mindset we are going to have coming into the next round.”

Smith took just two shots and scored only two points against Morehead State (25-10) but the 6-foot-5, 200-pound guard/forward assumed his role as a set-up man well. Smith, who is second on the team with 119 assists, not only had six on Saturday but committed just one turnover and grabbed four rebounds.

That was two days after Smith was ineffective on offense. He did not attempt a shot, failed to record an assist and committed four fouls in 18 minutes in the Spiders' upset over No. 5 seed Vanderbilt.

“That was my main focus, just staying out of foul trouble and doing as much as possible on the offensive end to get guys shots and help with (Kenneth) Faried on defense and I was able to get that accomplished,” Smith said.

While his season continues, it ends for three local products on Morehead State’s roster: Demonte Harper (Whites Creek), fellow starter Drew Kelly (Centennial) and reserve Arthur McMillan (Hillsboro).

Harper said he came back down from Cloud 9 by tip-off after he sunk a game-winning 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left in Morehead’s shocking win against No. 4 seed Louisville on Thursday.

He struggled from the field again. He was 3-of-10 against Louisville and then went 2-of-15 and missed all six attempts from 3-point range against Richmond. He finished with four points, to go along with three turnovers. But he matched a career-high with 11 rebounds and added three assists.

Kelly, a redshirt-freshman transfer from Miami (Ohio), went scoreless (0-for-4) in 13 minutes. McMillan, a freshman forward, entered with less than 60 seconds left to get his first taste of the NCAA Tournament.

Both will have a chance to get back to the tournament but that isn’t the case for Harper, a senior who played against Smith on the AAU circuit.

Still, he isn’t too disappointed with the way his career ended. Not only did he most likely become a “One Shining Moment” highlight with his big-time 3-pointer but he helped the Eagles get to their second NCAA Tournament in three years.

“This is a great feeling even though we came up short,” Harper said. “We did a lot for our program by beating Louisville. Now everybody knows who Morehead State is. ... It is probably the best moment of my life, playing in this tournament and winning a game.”