Boston College tested, but holds off Mercer 73-56

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BOSTON (AP)—Boston College slowed Mercer down and prevented the Bears from pulling off another victory over a major conference school.

Shamari Spears had 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Tyrese Rice scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half as Boston College won 73-56 on Sunday and avoided joining once-ranked Southern Cal on the list of Mercer’s upsets.

Rakim Sanders had 11 points and nine rebounds for Boston College (3-0), which trailed 28-26 just before halftime but reversed Mercer’s rebounding edge and took higher-percentage shots in the second.

“We righted some wrongs in the second half,” BC coach Al Skinner said. “We were fortunate to be tied at halftime, but in the second half we refocused ourselves and attacked the basket a little more.”

James Florence and Shaddean Aaron each scored 16 for Mercer (1-3), which beat then-No. 18 Southern Cal 96-81 in the opener but hasn’t won since. Bears coach Mark Slonaker knows there’s no more element of surprise once they beat a ranked team.

“When that score flashed across the ticker, it probably gave Al reason to get their attention,” he said.

A Baptist-affiliated private school with little athletic tradition, Mercer’s Macon, Ga., campus came alive after the Nov. 6 victory over Southern Cal that has been called the biggest win in school history. The Bears averaged 84 points per game coming in, but they followed the upset with losses to Alabama and Harvard.

Asked if he was prepared for the team that beat a Pac 10 power or the one that lost by 18 to an Ivy League also-ran, Rice said, “I’m looking at the Southern Cal score.”

“I’m looking at their best,” he said. “I’m looking at the Southern Cal game, and saw they put up something like 96. We knew they could score.”

They can also rebound.

Mercer outrebounded BC 27-17 in the first half, but the Eagles turned that into a 26-18 edge in the second to pull away. BC went 4-for-16 from 3-point range in the first half and 3-for-9 in the second.

“The second half was a transformation,” Skinner said.

Mercer went just 2-for-11 from 3-point range in the second half, and Florence and Aaron combined to make just 3-of-14 from beyond the arc in the game.

“We knew they were coming,” Slonaker said. “We talked about it at halftime: they were going to start flying at us. BC’s too proud of a team to let happen what was going on.”

BC led just 57-53 with six minutes left before Rice hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, then Biko Paris stole the ball and set Rice up for a breakaway layup to start a three-point play. Aaron missed a 3-pointer, then Corey Raji hit a pair of free throws to give the Eagles a 65-53 lead.

Mercer never got within 10 points again, as BC scored eight of the final 11 points.

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J. Florence J. Florence
5-20,  16 Pts
7 Rebs, 4 Assists
 Boston Coll.
T. Rice T. Rice
7-14,  19 Pts
2 Rebs, 7 Assists

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