Tulane's Stark Ends Hoops Title Hopes Despite Walton's Best
Senior Walton Goes For 16 Points In Heart-Breaking 2nd Round Loss
Check out the pregame prep that North Texas went through leading up to Wednesday's game against No. 7 Tulane.
EL PASO, Texas - Senior leadership had the North Texas basketball team in position to take down Tulane, but Jonathan Stark and the Green Wave couldn't be stopped in the second half of a 66-61 loss in the Conference USA Tournament second round.
Brandan Walton poured in 16 points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point on the afternoon, which helped the Mean Green (16-16) jump out to a 13-point lead with 17 minutes to play. That's when Stark's dribble penetration started to slice the NT interior, and the Mean Green lead was gone within 10 minutes.
Stark had five points at the half, but finished with a 21 points and seven assist - both game highs. The seventh seeded Green Wave (17-15) advance to take on No. 2 Tulsa in the quarterfinals tomorrow afternoon.
"Stark was the difference in this game," said North Texas head coach Tony Benford. "He did a great job of breaking us down defensively, and I give them a lot of credit for making the plays down the stretch to win the game. We had a couple of good looks at rim late in the final minute, but they just didn't fall. I'm really proud of the way we battled, though. It shows me that our program is really headed in the right direction."
Walton hit a jumper with 39 seconds on the clock that cut the Tulane lead to one point, 62-61, and the Mean Green defense forced a stop on the other end. Chris Jones took a high-ball screen and dribbled to the left block with 11 seconds left. The junior's had a look at a contested layup that would have given NT the lead, but the shot rimmed out.
Tulane closed the game with four free throws in the final 10 seconds.
North Texas was in total control for the first 23 minutes of the contest. NT held Tulane to just 21 points at the half, which are the 2nd fewest points at the break by a Mean Green opponent this year. The Mean Green led by 11 at the break, and was 12-1 on the year when heading into the half with a lead.
Mean Green Quick Hitters
• Brandan Walton is simply a postseason player. In five career conference tournament games at North Texas, the senior is averaging 14.8 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting from 3-point.
• North Texas finishes with 16 wins on the year, and a .500 record. Only 18 teams in NT history finished with 16 or more wins, and this is just the 30th .500 season since WWII.
• NT held Tulane to just 21 points at the half, which are the 2nd fewest points at the break by a Mean Green opponent this year. North Texas held Incarnate Word to 16 first-half points back in Nov.
• While this is NT's first appearance in the Conference USA Tournament, the Mean Green is now 16-6 in conference tourney games over the last eight seasons. North Texas won the 2007 and 2010 Sun Belt Tournaments.
• Chris Jones posted six assists on the day, which gives him 127 on the year - the 8th most in a single season in program history.
• NT is now 0-2 against Tulane all-time. North Texas lost the only other matchup with the Green Wave, 73-62, in Denton back on Jan. 11.