Walker, Rice Outduel Chicago Powerhouse

Reporter Brian Towey has the story of Rice's victory yesterday at Madison Square Garden ...

While recognizing his team's youth and its tendency to waver down the stretch, Rice coach Mo Hicks has demanded the composure of a veteran team. Hicks' precocious group took a step forward on Sunday when they held off a seasoned Chicago Simeon team 53-51 at the Nike Super Six at Madison Square Garden.

"They responded well," said Hicks. "They didn't crack. I think the experience of our schedule- we've played some really good teams early this season, like Norcross from Georgia- prepared them for this game."

Simeon picked apart a late deficit with the help of Kevin Johnson and Derrick Rose. A pair of putbacks by Johnson cut Rice's lead to 40-39 with 4:26 to play. Rose finally put Simeon ahead at 47-46 with 1:33 to play, surging along the baseline for a three-point play.

It was at that point that Rice showed its resolve. Randy Battle's leaner at 1:08 regained the lead at 48-47, and the Raiders parlayed a steal on the next possession into a transition basket for Durand Scott. After Rose cut the lead to one with a double-clutch lay-up, Rice was finally able to shut the door on a lay-up by Lamont Jones off of the inbound with 12 seconds left.

While Rose, the Memphis-bound point guard who is among the nation's elite players, scored 22 points, Rice guard Kemba Walker was credited with keeping him in check.

"I thought that Kemba did a very good job," said Hicks. "He was up to the task. We had worked on how to defend (Rose) and giving help."

Walker and shooting guard Chris Fouch- who hit a pair of first half three-pointers- led Rice with 14 points. But in typical Rice fashion, it was the team's collective toughness and tenacity that helped them to compensate for a lack of size, brawn, and experience.

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