El Paso, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Brandan Walton netted 17 points and hit 4- of-12 from 3-point range as the 10th-seeded North Texas Mean Green barely edged the 15th-seeded Rice Owls, 63-62, in an overtime contest in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament at Don Haskins Center.
A pair of Chris Jones free throws with 11 seconds left in the overtime period gave North Texas (16-15) the one-point advantage, which would hold up as the final. Colin Voss scored 16 points with nine rebounds, and Jordan Williams tallied a double-double with 11 points and 14 boards for the Mean Green, who advance to play seventh-seeded Tulane on Wednesday.
Austin Ramljak notched 17 points and five rebounds for Rice (7-23), which has lost eight straight games. Sean Obi netted 12 points with nine rebounds, and Seth Gearhart contributed 11 in the defeat.
Rice shot 40 percent from the floor in the first half, and hit 5-of-11 from 3- point range to help the Owls take a 30-21 halftime advantage over North Texas. The Mean Green connected on 34.8 percent of their shots in the frame, and missed all six 3-point tries.
The Owls slipped down to 28.6 percent shooting in the second half, but did connect on 10-of-17 from the free-throw line. North Texas was able to catch up to Rice thanks to 35.7 percent shooting in the period, and 12-of-15 from the charity stripe. Jones' heroics weren't just confined to the overtime period. With 23 seconds left to play in regulation, Jones netted a pair of free throws to knot the game at 56-56. A missed jumper from Rice with three seconds left wouldn't fall, and the game went into the extra period.
The overtime was a tight match, and the Mean Green hit just 1-of-5 from the floor in the additional five minutes. But North Texas was able to sink 4-of-4 from the charity stripe, including Jones' two game-winning free throws.
The Mean Green outscored Rice from the foul line, 21-14, and had the edge in rebounding, 45-38. The Owls outscored North Texas from 3-point range, 30-12.