Tyrese Rice Is Nice, but Stephon Curry Is the No. 1 Gunner

Jimmy GrapponeCorrespondent IJanuary 6, 2009

Rice Outlasts and Outplays Nation's Top-Ranked Team

His friends may call him Reese, but his game is much sweeter than any candy bar images his name might conjure. And he always seems to leave his opponents in pieces.

The 21,750 in attendance at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill, NC and everyone else who watched Boston College's 85-78 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels on Sunday night, witnessed something I've watched for the past six years, something that has become commonplace now for ACC basketball players, coaches, and fans: a virtuoso performance by the Eagles' star guard and lone fourth-year contributor, Tyrese Rice.

What makes Rice's 25-point, eight-assist performance against the nation's top team so special goes well beyond the numbers.  Everyone knows Rice can put the ball in the basket, and he has already had several huge games throughout his collegiate career, including a 46-point scoring barrage in a losing effort against the Tar Heels last season at Chapel Hill.

But the Boston College point guard's poise, leadership, and ability to involve his teammates throughout the game and take over during crunch time set him apart from other high scorers in the ACC—and throughout the country.

Rice was willing and able to get his younger teammates involved early and often in Sunday's contest as his eight dimes will attest, and the performances of sophomore Rakim Sanders (22 points) and freshman Reggie Jackson (career-high 17 points) were crucial to the Eagles' win over previously unbeaten UNC. 

However, Rice's quiet confidence and poise calmed his young teammates during a late North Carolina rally, and his ability to make pressure-packed free throws with the game on the line enabled his team to seize victory and pull away to a comfortable margin down the final stretch.

The simple fact that Rice was the best "Ty" on the court should be enough to have college fans and NBA scouts drooling and future opponents sweating.  Rice thoroughly outplayed his better known counterpart, UNC's speedy point guard, Tywon Lawson (10 points, four assists), and he outscored the NCAA's reigning POY, Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough, by four points. 

Tyrese Rice first showed up on the national scene with a 30-point game against the Kevin Durant-led Oak Hill Academy in 2005.

Four years ago, Rice was the top player for the L.C. Bird High School Skyhawks (Chesterfield, VA), and though he had long shone against Richmond-area public high school competition, it took what has now become a routine performance for the All-ACC gunner against the nation's top prep team to gain the attention of big-time basketball scouts. 

"Candy Bar" (Rice's nickname) may not be "The Answer," but his play is reminiscent of another Virginia high school legend and is nothing short of Iverson-esque.


Curry Can Add to His Davidson Legend at Second-Ranked Duke

America's leading scorer and 2008 NCAA Tournament wunderkind, Davidson College's Steph Curry, has yet another opportunity to add to both his mystique and his NBA Lottery status in a primetime, nationally televised game on Wednesday (ESPN, 7:00 pm) against the Duke Blue Devils.

By now, anyone with a pulse and even the faintest interest in college basketball knows the Steph Curry story.

Son of longtime NBA sharp-shooter Dell Curry, Steph was deemed too small to play in the ACC or Big East, so he stayed close to his Charlotte home. He accepted a basketball scholarship from a tiny liberal arts school in Davidson, NC and single handedly led his team within a missed buzzer-beating three-point attempt of upsetting the eventual champion Kansas Jayhawks to reach the Final Four. 

Not a bad story in itself. However, his encore season may be even more remarkable for the simple fact that he leads the nation in scoring (29.2 ppg) while orchestrating the Wildcats' offense from the point guard position.

Curry has already scored more than 40 points in a game three times this season, including a 41-point game against Middle Tennessee State in which he effortlessly posted 31 points in the second half.

However, like Rice, Curry's game goes well beyond the numbers found in the final box score.  Curry's court awareness, defensive toughness (3 spg), and basketball intellect are off the charts, and his ability to get to whatever point on the court he wishes is similar to that of NBA All-Star Chris Paul. 

While Curry may not ever have Paul's speed or strength, both players understand equally well how to score the basketball from anywhere on the court, and each makes his teammates better with precision passing and the ability to create easy scoring opportunities for his teammates.

Davidson's most recent nationally televised game against Purdue was a blowout loss for the Wildcats and Steph Curry's worst game of the season.

But there is no question that Curry will come out firing threes, running his defenders to death, and determined to show the country why he is a legitimate All-American and one of the top players in college basketball in tonight's matchup against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium.