Dru Smith is leading this year’s Missouri Tigers team

Missouri guard Dru Smith is in his first season on the court for the Missouri basketball team. He played his best basketball game of the season so far when the Tigers needed him most.

Dru Smith is leading the Missouri Tigers this season. When he plays well, the Tigers play well.

Missouri basketball is 9-6 and 1-2 in conference. Smith has started all 15 games this season. He is averaging 12 points a game, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals, playing 30 minutes a game. He is shooting better than 50 percent from the field inside the 3-point line and 38.7 percent from the 3. But what Smith did against Florida showed how he can lead this team on the court.

The junior scored 22 points on eight field goals and went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line as Mizzou won 91-75. He made two 3-pointers, grabbed two rebounds, had six assists and collected five steals. He was the reason Florida never really had a chance to win Saturday’s game.

Mizzou fed off the energy of Smith, including fellow guards Mark Smith and Xavier Pinson. When those guards are playing their best, even the top teams in the SEC will struggle against Missouri, and that’s what happened Saturday.

The Tigers will need those guards to continue to step up their game as big man Jeremiah Tilmon sits with a stress fracture in his foot. Coach Cuonzo Martin wanted to play a guard-heavy offense this season, and that’s what he is getting with this Tigers team.

Dru Smith is leading the team with his defense and steady ball-handling skills. The Evansville transfer is in his first year playing for the Tigers after he had to sit out last season because he was ruled ineligible. For the year, he ranks first in steals in the SEC and ninth in assists.

When he isn’t on his A-game is when the Tigers are struggling.

He only scored six points and only got off four shots against Tennessee. Remember the Charleston Southern game? Yeah, that’s a tough one to think about. Smith only had two points. He didn’t play well against Oklahoma but kept them in games against their tougher opponents this season in Xavier, Butler and Kentucky.

Before Saturday’s game, Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about Smith’s play and how the Tigers need him on the floor. He had fouled out against Tennessee, and that’s when the Tigers let that game slip away.

He certainly played better against Florida, and so did the team.

Next: Xavier Pinson dunk was one to remember for the Tigers