ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) Ike Nwamu scored 21 points and Mercer made its last eight free throws in overtime to hold off Rice 77-71 on Thursday night in the first round of the Great Alaska Shootout.
Mercer (3-2) took a 71-66 lead when Nwamu recovered Seth Gearhart's turnover with 26 seconds left in overtime and made the first two of the Bears' final eight free throws.
Rice (1-3) trailed 51-40 midway through the second half, but rallied with a 17-4 run.
Jibri Bryan put the Bears ahead 59-57 on a four-point play with 3:26 left in regulation. The Owls answered with four straight points and Mercer tied it at 61 with 26 seconds left.
Bryan scored 18 points and T.J. Hallice had 12 for the Bears. Gearhart led the Owls with 16, and Max Guercy and Marcus Jackson added 13 apiece.
On Friday, Mercer will play the UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals and Rice will face Washington State.