Russ Smith made history on March 24th, breaking the D-League scoring record with 65 points in a loss to the Canton Charge. Smith shot 24-of-42 from the field and 16-of-20 from the free throw line on his way to the record. This wasn't a Steph Curry three-point barrage, Smith did almost all of his damage the old-fashioned way, hitting just one three point shot.
The previous record (61 points) was set in January by then Delaware 87er Jordan McRae. In similar fashion, McRae hit on only 3 three-point shots on his record night, also against the Canton Charge.
Smith, a six-foot guard, scored 48 of the 65 in the paint or at the charity stripe. For college basketball fans, this shouldn't be surprising, Smith helped lead Louisville to a national title in 2013, but only shot 35% from distance during his career. The guard is far better known for his explosive first step and driving ability than for knocking down jumpers.
Smith's performance alone is incredible, but it becomes even more impressive when considering the Canton Charge's defensive ability. The Charge rank 4th in the D-League in defensive rating and defensive rebounding, and 7th for opponent's turnover ratio. So why have the 87ers been able to set not one, but two scoring records on the Charge?
First, Canton struggles to protect the rim. The Charge rank near the bottom of the D-League with only 4.2 blocks per game. When you pair those struggles with a general lack of size, players like Smith and McRae are going to take advantage. The Charge have just three active players over 6' 7": Jon Horford (6' 10"), Nick Minnerath (6' 9"), and Juvonte Reddic (6' 9"). Horford and Reddic are big bodies, both listed at 250 pounds, but neither alter shots consistently. Minnerath provides a little more versatility as an athletic big, but isn't a quick leaper like most shot blockers.
Combine this lack of size with Canton's ability to consistently space the floor, and seams open up. An elite driving guard like Smith can attack his defender without having to worry about a help-side defender when he reaches the block. Canton's lineup is typically small and quick. Even the lone big, David Laury at 6' 11", spaces things out and averages over two 3-point attempts per game.
As Smith and McRae have shown, Delaware can identify an opponent's weakness and attack it. When that weakness runs opposite of their strength, it makes for a record setting game. Canton, however, seems happy to let them. Russ Smith's record setting game? Canton won by 11.