COLUMBIA, Mo. – Mark Smith wasn’t sure he would even play this year, let alone have a career day in Missouri’s season-opening game.

Well, after the NCAA granted him immediate eligibility following his transfer from Illinois, the 6-foot-4 guard provided an offensive spark for the Tigers.

He finished with 19 points and a career-high 10 rebounds Tuesday night, tallying his first career double-double. He also made a career-high five 3-pointers, helping lead Missouri to a 68-55 home win against Central Arkansas.

Smith shot 23 percent from 3-point range last season with Illinois, but Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin wasn’t surprised by Smith’s shooting touch in the opener.

Why? Because Smith made it a priority this past summer to turn into a consistent shooter.

“It’s nice to see hard work pay off,” Smith said.

Smith’s work started to pay off early for both himself and the Tigers.

After earning the starting nod, along with Javon Pickett, Jordan Geist, Blue Springs South graduate Kevin Puryear and Jeremiah Tilmon, Smith didn’t wait long to make an impact.

With Missouri tied with Central Arkansas 5-5, Smith hit his first 3-point attempt. He pointed three fingers to the ground, in celebration, as he retreated on defense.

That was the first of three straight attempts he made in the midst of Missouri’s 13-0 first-half run.

“He shoots them in practice,” Martin said. “The thing about it is, if that’s what you do, that’s what you are supposed to do. If you are a 3-point shooter, you have to make shots. … We expect the ball to go in the basket if that’s what you do.”

Smith wasn’t necessarily known for his rebounding ability. His previous career high, at Illinois, was three, which he got four different times.

“We work on rebounding. Like I always tell our guards, ‘I don’t know where you get the thought that big guys are supposed to do all the rebounding,’” Martin said. “The way the game is played nowadays you don’t have big guys around the rim as much as you used to. Mark isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty.”

Puyear also had 10 rebounds on Tuesday.

Tilmon joked he expected to get 10 rebounds in the game, not Smith. But Tilmon made his impact on the offensive side of the floor. He was in double figures with 16 points.

Six of Tilmon’s points came in a first half when he did not record a foul.

“I told ya’ll I was working on that. I’ve been working on staying on the floor, and it worked out for me,” Tilmon said. “I was just going straight up.”

Tilmon, who averaged just 19.4 minutes per game last year largely because of foul trouble, played 26 minutes on Tuesday. His ability to stay out of foul trouble gave him a longer leash in the second half and it paid off for Missouri.

With Missouri only 30-20 heading into the second half, after shooting just 32 percent overall in the first half, Tilmon dominated inside.

The first basket of the second half was a Tilmon finish inside. Tilmon, who shot 8-of-14 from the field, looked much more comfortable with the ball in his hand than he did as a freshman.

It showed in his 10-point second-half performance, as well as his two assists.

“The one thing with Jeremiah, because he has a good spirit and has a big heart, he is not the kind of guy you will never see demanding the ball. I need to call some plays, force guys to get him the ball and then he will make plays,” Martin said. “One thing I said to him is, ‘You have to realize how strong you are.’ He can move you. Two steps and he’s at the rim.”

After Tilmon’s basket gave Missouri a 12-point lead early in the second half, back-to-back Smith 3-pointers gave the Tigers a 15-point lead.

The Tigers built their lead up to 17 points after a Geist basket with 17:56 to play in the second half.

Central Arkansas cut the Missouri lead to seven with 10:51 left in the game, but Missouri answered.

A 10-1 run gave Missouri a 57-40 lead with 8:28 remaining. Missouri kept control the rest of the way en route to its fourth straight season-opening win.

Geist and Puryear, Missouri’s two leaders on and off the floor, both had off nights offensively. Geist finished with five points on 2-of-10 shooting, while Puyear finished with two points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Martin isn’t worried about Geist or Puryear, though.

“Geist will be better, Kevin will be better from the field,” Martin said. “If you walk away with a win with those two guys not scoring the ball well, I feel good about it.”

Missouri should also feel good that Smith is now eligible, instead of redshirting the season away like what was once expected.

Tilmon, for one, is happy about it.

“He plays hard the whole time," Tilmon said of Smith. "He has heart, he is never going to give up.”

Missouri is scheduled to play at Iowa State at 6 p.m. on Friday.