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November 14, 2007
Florence, Mercer not overlooked anymore
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
F Chris Knight, Bowling Green
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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