WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP)—The story would be much better if Tyrese Rice actually spurned Wake Forest to attend Boston College. Only it turns out there really wasn’t much of a contest.
“I went on my Boston College visit, and I had a visit set for Wake Forest scheduled the weekend after,” Rice said. “But I committed after my Boston College visit.”
His decision continues to pay off for the Eagles.
The freshman set season highs with 23 points and six 3-pointers, and No. 17 Boston College overcame sluggish performances from its top two scorers in a 72-66 win over the Demon Deacons on Wednesday night.
When Rice was making his decision, Wake Forest wasn’t sure if Chris Paul was going to return for his junior season. He eventually left early for the NBA, but by the time it was official, Rice already had a scholarship to BC.
The Deacons, meanwhile, ended up getting Shamaine Dukes, who has scored a total of 27 points in 19 games. He didn’t get off the bench in three others.
“I thought Tyrese Rice was excellent,” Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. “I knew he could be, so it wasn’t a shock there.”
The Eagles (18-5, 6-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) moved into a tie for third in the conference with Miami with their seventh victory in eight games. It came without much help from Craig Smith and Jared Dudley, their high-scoring duo who came in averaging 17 points apiece.
Smith finished with only nine points on four shots—he did pull down 13 rebounds—while Dudley shot only 3-of-9 from the field on his way to 14 points. He also got three stitches after the game to a cut just below his mouth.
“Obviously, they were sagging off on us, and Tyrese gave it to them,” Smith said.
Justin Gray scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half before fouling out for the Demon Deacons (12-11, 1-9), and Harvey Hale added 13 points. Wake Forest is off to its worst start in the ACC since losing its first 11 games in 1989-90.
“If you don’t have any pride, then it’ll show up and be evident,” Gray said. “It’s sort of my job to keep the team together, along with the other seniors. I’ve got to keep them up. I don’t want to leave Wake Forest with a losing record.”
Prosser tried nearly everything to turn it around, including a handful of defenses. There was a man-to-man, a straight zone, a trap and even a triangle-and-two, and none of them did much to contain Rice.
“In the scouting report, he was listed as an ‘X-factor’ guy,” Gray said. “He did what any Division I basketball player is going to do—step up and make those shots.”
Rice bettered his previous best of 22 points that came earlier in the season in a victory over Drake, and after reaching double figures only once in the previous eight games, he came out firing. Rice was fouled on his first attempt from beyond the arc, and he calmly made all three free throws to start his binge.
In practice at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum a day earlier, he had trouble finding his range, so he wondered if he was in for some struggles.
“It was weird, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to knock down any shots,” Rice said. “When I made those three free throws, it kind of got me in rhythm.”
Over the next 4 minutes, none of his three 3-pointers even bothered touching the rim as it went through, and the final one gave the Eagles a 21-18 lead. Prosser missed it, however, turning his head in disgust as soon as he saw an open Rice catch the pass on the wing.
Rice finally missed at the end of the first half, but BC still led 28-22.
“We thought the zone would be good against them, but we didn’t do a good job of finding Rice,” Prosser said. “When we did find him, we sort of looked at him as he handed us a 3.”
The Deacons got going after halftime, and Gray capped a 7-0 run with a 3 to give them their first lead in 15 minutes. But Rice stepped outside again to put the Eagles ahead, and after another tie a bit later, he gave them the lead for good with another one.
And still he wasn’t done. His final points came on a 3-pointer with about 8 minutes remaining to increase the margin to four, and BC steadily pulled away from there until a late rally from the Deacons made the final margin a bit more respectable.
“We’re really working hard to overcome that 0-3 start,” Eagles coach Al Skinner said. “We’re doing it slowly, but we’ve got to continue to work at it. Anytime you can go on the road and get a win in someone else’s building, you’ve got to feel pretty fortunate.”