Chris Jones made two free throws to push the game into overtime and won it with two more as No. 10 seed North Texas edged 15th-seeded Rice in the first round of the Conference-USA tournament Tuesday in El Paso.
Rice led 62-58 with 1:51 left in overtime. Then Brandan Walton hit a 3-pointer on North Texas’ next possession. Rice missed four consecutive free throws and Jones made both of his with 11 seconds left. Marcus Jackson missed a shot at the buzzer.
Walton scored 17 for North Texas (16-15) and Jordan Williams added 11 and 14 rebounds.
North Texas closed regulation on a 7-0 run, with a Walton 3-pointer, a Williams layup and two Jones free throws with 23 seconds left. Rice’s Keith Washington missed a game-winning shot.
“I told these guys at halftime that they had better get it in gear or we were headed home,” North Texas coach Tony Benford said. “I’m so proud of the way these guys fought back, got the stops we needed and made sure we would be sticking around another day.”
Rice (7-23) was led by Austin Ramljak with 17 points, Sean Obi’s 12 and Seth Gearhart’s 11.
North Texas will play No. 7 seed Tulane at 1 p.m. CDT today.
UT expansion eyed
The athletics department has ordered a feasibility study on expansion of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The expansion would enclose the southern end of the stadium with a multilevel stand. Now, only a relatively small, bleacher-style stand and the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center sit in the stadium’s southern end. Currently, the stadium seats just over 100,000.
According to a UT athletics department statement, the study will consider such aspects as financing and where parking and fan amenities displaced by the new Dell Medical School can be placed. The medical school is to be built just south of the stadium.
Any decision on whether to proceed with stadium improvements lies with the university administration and UT System regents.