Rice points the way for BC
He's up to burn lowly Deacons
BCs Jared Dudley, who was held to 14 points, tries to push past Wake Forests Trent Strickland during the Eagles victory. (AP Photo)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Tyrese Rice said he did not come here to prove a point. He says he came here with his Boston College teammates just to make them.
After Wake Forest seemed to drag its feet in recruiting him to replace guard Chris Paul, who departed for the NBA, Rice held the Demon Deacons' collective feet to the fire. The 6-foot freshman guard from Richmond, Va., led the No. 17 Eagles to a 72-66 Atlantic Coast Conference victory last night with a career-high 23 points before a Lawrence Joel Coliseum crowd of 14,665.
''He was really excited about playing down here," said BC coach Al Skinner. ''He had some family members here. When you play a zone and give him an opportunity to get good looks at the basket, he's going to put the ball in the basket."
With Wake Forest focused on stopping Craig Smith (who had 9 points and a game-high 13 rebounds), Rice knocked down 7 of 9 field goals, including 6 of 8 from the 3-point arc, to help the Eagles improve to 18-5 overall, and 6-4 in the ACC.
''Obviously, they were sagging off on me, and Tyrese just gave it to them," Smith said.
BC pulled into contention for one of the four first-round byes to the ACC Tournament by drawing into a tie for third place with Miami (14-9, 6-4), which suffered an 86-77 loss in double overtime last night to visiting North Carolina State.
Asked if he wanted to prove a point to Wake Forest's coaching staff, Rice said, ''Not at all. I just came out and played like it was any other game."
The Eagles were fortunate to have Rice hitting from almost every conceivable spot on the floor after making a season-low 17 of 38 from the field. In a statistical anomaly, BC set a Joel Coliseum record for free-throw attempts, hitting a season-high 30 of 50, even though the Eagles missed 14 of 24 in the game's final 1:48.
''We knew we had the win, but they didn't quit," said Rice, who scored 14 first-half points on 4-for-5 shooting, including 3 of 4 from the arc, to help the Eagles control a 28-22 halftime lead. ''They came out and played even harder and made a game of it."
After Justin Gray (game-high 24 points) buried a trey to pull Wake Forest within 34-33 with 15:43 left, Rice responded with a trey from NBA range.
''Oh, man, it crushes them," Smith said of Rice's 3-point depth. ''You can see their hearts drop. I think we were tied once [18-18] and he hit a deep one, and their hearts just dropped. It's a tough thing. If you miss, it's to their advantage. But if you make it, it kind of kills them."
After the Eagles went into a 6:25 lapse, Rice broke a 42-42 tie when he knocked down another transcontinental trey to spark a 13-3 run that enabled the Eagles to build a 55-45 lead with 6:15 to go.
''I thought Tyrese Rice was excellent," said Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser, whose team (12-11, 1-9) lost its sixth consecutive conference game. ''We knew he could be. It's not like it was a shock or someone we didn't talk about in the scouting report."
What must have been a shock, though, was when Rice canceled his official visit to Wake Forest after committing to BC following a trip to Chestnut Hill. Rice said he ''felt like I was at home" at BC. So when Skinner and his staff made an official scholarship offer, Rice said it sealed his decision.
''Yeah, they didn't put the scholarship out there like Boston College did," Rice said. ''And so I just made my decision."
Said Smith, ''I'm glad he chose us, especially tonight, because he probably would've killed us with a couple of 'em. I'm glad he's with us. He's a good guy and he's got three more years left and he's going to make a big impact for this program."