ATLANTA — Glenn Rice Jr. may be just the player Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt has been looking for.
Rice, a sophomore, scored a career-high 24 points and Iman Shumpert added all of his 15 points in the second half to lead Georgia Tech to a come-from-behind 87-78 win over Mercer on Friday.
"He (Rice) is growing up. His attention to detail has improved," said Hewitt. "He's the type of guy who can lead this team in a lot of ways."
Rice shot 6 for 15 from the field, including 4 of 10 3's and connected on 8 of 10 free throws.
"I've been working hard in practice on getting my footwork right so it can translate into the game and I think it worked," Rice said.
Freshmen Jason Morris and Kammeon Holsey each added a career-high 13 points for the Yellow Jackets (7-5).
Jeff Smith led Mercer (3-10) with 23 points. The Bears, who have lost seven of eight, also got 16 points from Brian Mills.
Tech, which trailed 47-41 at halftime, went ahead to stay at 60-59 on a basket by Shumpert with 9:23 left. The Yellow Jackets then broke it open with a 9-1 run for a 70-62 lead with 5:10 remaining on a 3-point shot by Rice. Mercer never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
"Defensively, we were better (in the second half)," said Hewitt.
Holsey said Hewitt told his team at halftime "to play tough, to put more pressure on them."
Mercer, which had lost its last two games in the final seconds — 56-53 to Georgia on Dec. 23 and 64-63 to Charlotte on
Thursday night — had its biggest lead at six points at halftime.
"I'm real proud of our guys; not happy with the loss," said Mercer coach Bob Hoffman. "They have given us everything that they can give us the last four weeks and we have been right there and just have not been able to get the fruits of our labor."
Smith, Mercer's leading scorer (14.2), led the Bears with 13 points and Mills added 10 in the first half as the Bears shot 56 percent (19 for 34), including 6 for 9 from 3-point range (67 percent).
Rice had 12 points and Morris added 11 points at the half for the Yellow Jackets.
Tech's two leading scorers — Shumpert (14.7 points) and Oliver (12.2) — failed to score before intermission. Shumpert hampered by two early fouls, only played 8 minutes and was 0 for 2 from the field. Oliver, in 16 minutes, was 0 for 3.
Shumpert and Rice led Tech in rebounds, each with seven. Shumpert hit on 4 of 8 shots in the second half, including a 3-pointer, and was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. Oliver wound up with two points on 1-of-7 shooting.