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November 14, 2007

Florence, Mercer not overlooked anymore

James Florence, G, Mercer

Three freshmen led their conferences in scoring last season.

One, Kevin Durant, already is in the NBA.

Another, Stephen Curry, led the Southern Conference at 21.5 points per game. The son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry garnered national attention when his Davidson Wildcats threw a scare into Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament behind his 30-point effort.

The other, James Florence, largely flew under the radar at Mercer. The three-star prospect averaged 19.3 points in the Atlantic Sun.

Florence, and the Atlantic Sun, showed up on everybody's radar last week. Florence, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard from the Atlanta area, scored 30 points as the Bears went on the road and stunned USC 96-81, spoiling the debut of five-star freshman O.J. Mayo.

It was part of a grand week for the A-Sun, with Gardner-Webb knocking off Kentucky in Lexington and Belmont winning at Cincinnati.

For his efforts, Florence is Rivals.com's Mid-Major Player of the Week for the week of Nov. 5-11.

"We thought about Gardner-Webb and Belmont, and we said if they did it why can't we?" Florence told Rivals.com. "I think the league is definitely rising. There's a lot of young talent. It's improving every game."

The Bears raced out to a 47-30 halftime lead over the Trojans. They knew the home team would make a run, but they talked about keeping their heads about them.

"We were just like, 'Keep doing what you're doing,' " Florence said. "We talked about keeping it up on defense. In our exhibition game, we gave up like 50 points in the second half (46 actually, in an 87-66 victory over Georgia College). We didn't want to do the same thing with USC. We did, but we scored right with them."

The Trojans came up with 51 points in the second half. They cut the Bears' lead to 55-52 with a little more than 12 minutes to play, but Mercer scored the next six points to re-establish control. USC never got closer than nine the rest of the way.

Mayo finished with 32 points (on 12-for-27 shooting), including 25 in the second half. He hit three 3-pointers in the final three minutes when the game was out of reach for the Trojans. He also had seven rebounds, four assists and eight turnovers.

Florence was 11 of 23 from the floor. He added three rebounds, four assists and four steals with four turnovers.

"It was a great win, I really can't put it into words," Florence said. "It's big for the program.

"We're going to try to keep it going. We don't want to be a one-hit wonder."

Florence had three 30-point games last season, including 33 against Gardner-Webb. It was just one fewer 30-point game than Curry. Both were well behind Durant, who hit the 30 mark 11 times.

If Florence is in their shadow, he has a great perspective on it.

"I don't think I'm overlooked; I just haven't done enough to be looked at," Florence said. "If you look at it we have similar numbers, but they have the numbers in the win column. That's what I want to have."

OTHER NOMINEES FOR MID-MAJOR PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

F Kyle Hines, UNC Greensboro Hines, a 6-6 senior and the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year, had 25 points and nine rebounds in the Spartans' 83-74 win at Georgia Tech.


G Aaron Linn, Gardner-Webb
Linn, a junior, averaged 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, three assists and two steals in the Bulldogs' surprising run to the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic semifinals at Madison Square Garden. Linn had 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists in the 84-68 upset of Kentucky.


F Chris Knight, Bowling Green
Knight, a redshirt freshman, averaged 20 points and seven rebounds and shot 53.8 percent from the floor as the Falcons got off to a 2-1 start. He had 24 points and eight rebounds in a 69-67 victory over Cincinnati.




Michael Beasley
Forward
Kansas State



Talk about a smashing debut. Beasley, Rivals.com's No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2007, did nothing to disappoint. Beasley tallied 32 points and 24 rebounds in a season-opening 94-63 win over Sacramento State. He made 12 of 20 shots and added four blocks.

Beasley followed that up with 30 points and 14 rebounds in a 76-66 win over Division II Pittsburg State. He was 12 of 19 and had three assists.

Kansas State freshmen are currently off-limits to the media. A spokesman at the school said he didn't know when the gag would be lifted.

OTHER NOMINEES:

F Richard Hendrix, Alabama
Hendrix, a junior, had 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting and a career-high 23 rebounds in an 84-72 win over Troy.


G TaJuan Porter, Oregon
Porter, a sophomore, averaged 22.5 points and six assists in two victories. He was 16 of 28, including 8-of-17 from 3-point range.


F Sam Young, Pittsburgh
Young, a junior, averaged 19.3 points and nine rebounds as the Panthers jumped out to a 3-0 start. Young shot 64.9 percent (24-of- 37) for the week.


G Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis
Douglas-Roberts, a junior, averaged 23.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two victories in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.



DeJuan Blair
Forward
Pittsburgh



Blair shot a sizzling 70 percent from the floor as the Panthers jumped out to a 3-0 start with victories over Houston Baptist (103-62), North Carolina A&T (88-61) and Saint Louis (69-58). He averaged 15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

Blair, a former four-star prospect, had 20 points and 14 rebounds in only 19 minutes in his debut. He followed that with a perfect shooting night, going 4-for-4 from the floor and 2-for-2 at the free-throw line for 10 points in just 15 minutes.

OTHER NOMINEES:

C Kevin Love, UCLA
The Bruins' big man had 22 points and 13 rebounds in a season-opening 69-48 win over Portland State. Just as impressive was the fact he had three assists and zero turnovers in 28 minutes.


G Derrick Rose, Memphis
He averaged 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks in two victories in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic. He had a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as the Tigers head to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals on Thursday night.


F Austin Daye, Gonzaga
With big man Josh Heytvelt sidelined with a foot injury, the five-star prospect delivered a double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds) in his first outing as the Bulldogs crushed Montana 77-54.


G Nick Calathes, Florida
The five-star prospect averaged 18 points, 5.5 assists and three rebounds as the Gators' freshman-laden lineup got off to a 2-0 start with victories over North Dakota State (75-65) and Tennessee Tech (93-65).

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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