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March 2, 2008 Columns No Comments



Career First Half Falls Short For Rice, Eagles

by Phil Kasiecki

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – The unfortunate thing about Tyrese Rice’s first half is that it can be easily forgotten because of the outcome of the game. Thanks to a big second half that featured a 32-8 run to take over the game, North Carolina came back to beat Boston College 90-80 despite Rice’s big day.

Rice’s first half stat line looked like a great game for many players. He was 10-15 from the field, including 8-9 on three-pointers, scoring a career-high 34 points. (His previous career high was 32, which he scored three times.)

“I actually looked up at the end of the half to see what the score was, it didn’t really look right,” said the junior guard of his first half.

But it gets better than just that.

Rice’s hot shooting led the Eagles to a 16-2 start. He hit the 20-point mark before the game was six minutes old, and the entire Tar Heels team trailed Rice until there were about four minutes left in the first half. You might have thought Rice knew there was a flyer promoting him as an All-ACC candidate in the media notes folder and felt like I had to back it up.

“I will say that that’s about as impressive as anything that I’ve ever seen,” said North Carolina head coach Roy Williams.

Eagles head coach Al Skinner noted that Troy Bell had some halves similar to what Rice had, but didn’t take anything away from Rice in saying, “It still is as good a half as you’re going to see a guard play.”

And with it, the Eagles had a nice 54-40 lead at the break, a lead that grew to 58-40 when Rice scored two more baskets to start the second half. It was 61-44 in favor of the Eagles when it all came unraveled.

The Tar Heels went on a 32-8 run, sparked by transition baskets and three-point shots from Danny Green (12 of his 18 points in the second half) and Wayne Ellington (18 of his 20 in the second half). They steadily cut into the lead and took it over, and the game was never in doubt in the final minutes.

“That was vintage Carolina basketball,” said Rice of the Tar Heels’ run.

Rice knew that repeating the first half was basically impossible, and his teammates were needed. All year long, the Eagles’ fatal flaw has been that it’s anyone’s guess who might produce besides Rice, as he’s been the one consistent player. Unfortunately for the Eagles, that was never more evident than on Saturday, when Rice had 46 but no other Eagle reached double figures. Second-leading scorer Rakim Sanders, who’s been as inconsistent as the other Eagles, was just 2-10 from the field and continues to struggle from the foul line in missing his only two free throws.

One thing that hurt Rice in the second half was that the offense went stagnant quite often, as if the players were just trying to watch Rice play. From that, he didn’t have much in the way of openings like he did in the first half.

“I told my teammates at halftime that they’re going to come out and try to guard me a lot, so I need somebody to help me out and step up and take some shots,” said Rice.

With that, and with the Tar Heels coming to life, Rice’s big game didn’t lead to a win. Instead, it was a loss that dropped the Eagles below .500 at 13-14. And it was just another big game by an individual that didn’t lead to a win, something the opposing coach has seen before.

“Lindsey Hunter one night in Hawaii scored 45 against us, we won. Anthony Peeler scored 44 against us and we won. Randy Rutherford scored 42 against us and we won,” said Williams.

In some ways, Saturday’s game was a microcosm of the Eagles’ season. And as has been the case all year long, one player wasn’t enough.

Other Notable Games

Duke 87, North Carolina State 86: It didn’t come easy, but Coach K gets his 800th win and the Blue Devils stay right with the Tar Heels atop the ACC.

Stanford 60, Washington State 53: The Cardinal sweep the Cougars and keep pace with UCLA atop the Pac-10.

Arizona State 80, USC 66: A nice win for the Sun Devils, bouncing back from Thursday’s loss to UCLA and putting themselves in better position to get an NCAA Tournament bid.

Pittsburgh 82, Syracuse 77: This game had quite an ending as the Panthers stole one on the road with a late steal and four free throws. It puts a serious dent in Syracuse’s at-large hopes.

Georgetown 70, Marquette 68 (OT): The Hoyas pull out another close one to tentatively pull ahead of Louisville in the Big East.

Mississippi State 68, Florida 59: The talk of the Bulldogs being on the bubble could end with this road win. Meanwhile, the Gators are firmly on the bubble entering the last week of the regular season.

Arkansas 78, Vanderbilt 73: A nice win for the Razorbacks against a Vanderbilt team that had been playing very well.

Minnesota 71, Ohio State 57: The Buckeyes’ weren’t going to clinch an at-large with a win here, but this loss certainly puts a serious dent in it.

Kansas 88, Kansas State 74: The Jayhawks split the season series with their arch-rivals, but more importantly the Wildcats remain in a slide with their fourth straight loss.

Texas Tech 83, Texas 80: After a perfect month of February, the Longhorns drop the first of March.

Oklahoma 64, Texas A&M 37: Not a good loss this late in the season for the Aggies, who are in some bubble trouble at 7-7 in the Big 12.

Rhode Island 91, La Salle 85: The Rams get back on track with this road win and snap the Explorers’ five-game winning streak.

UNC-Wilmington 72, Old Dominion 54: The Seahawks take the No. 2 seed in the CAA Tournament with this win.

Gonzaga 88, Saint Mary’s 76: The Bulldogs are now in the driver’s seat to take home the West Coast Conference regular season title again.

Bowling Green 89, Kent State 83: Just as quickly as the Golden Flashes put themselves in the discussion for an at-large, they lose this game to put themselves back on the bubble.

Cornell 86, Harvard 53: The Big Red are the first team to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The only drama left is whether or not they will run the table in the Ivy League.

American 84, Lafayette 72: The Eagles take the Patriot League regular season title with this and Navy’s loss at Colgate.

Robert Morris 71, Long Island 68: The Colonials will enter the NEC Tournament with 13 straight wins.

Davidson 89, Georgia Southern 69: The Wildcats run the table in Southern Conference play, going 20-0.

Belmont 76, Gardner-Webb 73: The hot Bruins will ride a 10-game winning streak into the Atlantic Sun Tournament and have the top seed.

     

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