DENTON, Texas (WBKO) - WKU Hilltopper Basketball led North Texas by six with 4:10 to play Sunday, but the Mean Green rallied to force overtime and ultimately pulled out a 78-72 victory.
North Texas scored the last six points of regulation as WKU didn’t score again after a free throw by redshirt junior forward Carson Williams made it 63-57 with 4:10 to go.
The Hilltoppers (19-10 overall, 12-5 Conference USA) still led by one in overtime with 2:29 to go, but the Mean Green took the lead for good with two lob dunks.
North Texas (20-10, 14-3) secured the regular-season conference championship with the win.
“Winning and losing is a fine line,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Make one free throw, you might win the game. That gets magnified toward the end. There’s a lot of other plays throughout the game. … Besides all of that, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a team that played harder, tougher and left it all on the court like this team does.”
WKU trailed by five at halftime, but reclaimed the lead early in the second half.
A 10-0 run by the Hilltoppers made it 62-55 with five minutes left, capped by a steal and dunk by Williams.
But after the final media timeout, WKU had six empty possessions the rest of regulation. Junior guard Taveion Hollingsworth had two free throws to potentially win with 5.6 seconds left, but missed both to send the game to OT.
The Hilltoppers, who came into the game shooting 79.2 percent as a team from the line, made just 10 of 18 free throws in Sunday’s contest.
“Down the stretch, we’ve got to make free throws,” junior guard Josh Anderson said. “I feel like we lost the game and did that to ourselves. Free throws were the most important thing, and we just missed them.”
In overtime, graduate senior guard Camron Justice and redshirt senior guard/forward Jared Savage each made a clutch 3 to turn a two-point deficit into a one-point WKU lead.
Savage’s shot made it 69-68 with 2:29 remaining, but North Texas point guard Javion Hamlet found his teammates for two straight lob dunks to put the Mean Green up for good.
Hamlet finished with 25 points and nine assists to pace North Texas.
Hollingsworth had 22 points and four steals for WKU, while Williams added 19 points, nine rebounds and a career-high six assists. Anderson added 16 points.
The Hilltoppers will finish the regular season at FIU at 6 p.m. CT Saturday in Miami, Fla., looking to earn the No. 2 seed in the upcoming C-USA Tournament.
That game will stream exclusively online on CBS Sports Network on Facebook Watch.
“It doesn’t change what we’re trying to do,” Williams said. “We’re going to come out and fight regardless of whether we’re playing for first place or last place. That’s the kind of players we’ve got in this locker room.”