Middle Tennessee has knocked another Big Ten team out of the NCAA Tournament.
The 12th-seeded Blue Raiders pulled away from fifth-seeded Minnesota for an 81-72 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon in Milwaukee. It was the first upset, according to seed, in the tournament this year.
Middle Tennessee, which bounced Michigan State as a 15-seed in the first round last year, did not trail during the second half Thursday, leading by as much as 17 after intermission. The Gophers did use a 14-2 run to pull to within 4 points with 6 minutes, 40 seconds to play, but they never got closer.
Minnesota shot 46.2 percent from the floor, but hit just 28.6 percent of its 3-pointers. Amir Coffey had 17 points for the Gophers and Jordan Murphy added 15 points and 9 rebounds.
Down by 9 points with 1:27 left, Gophers coach Richard Pitino was hit with a technical foul, which ended any hope of a late comeback.
Minnesota’s season ends at 24-10, still an impressive turnaround from an 8-win campaign last season. Middle Tennessee, meanwhile, improved to 31-4.
Why Middle Tennessee beat Minnesota in the 2017 NCAA Tournament
The Blue Raiders have been here before, and they acted like it. Minnesota ran out to a 7-0 lead less than 4 minutes into the game, but Middle Tennessee had a 6-point lead at halftime. Then they made adjustments to grow that lead to as many as 17 in the second half and withstood that 14-2 run from the Gophers. The Blue Raiders got big shots from veterans and never lost their composure. They’ll be a tough out in this tournament.
What Middle Tennessee’s win over Minnesota in the 2017 NCAA Tournament means
The Blue Raiders will face No. 4 seed Butler on Saturday in the South Region. The Bulldogs were 76-64 winners against No. 13 seed Winthrop earlier in the day.
Who starred in Middle Tennessee’s win over Minnesota in the 2017 NCAA Tournament?
Reggie Upshaw had a game-best 19 points — 16 came in the second half. The senior forward even scored 9 straight points after Minnesota’s huge run to regain control of the game. It was a 3-pointer from Upshaw which kept the Gophers from narrowing the lead to one possession. Upshaw also had a team-high 21 points when Middle Tennessee upset the Spartans last year.
Who stumbled in Minnesota’s loss to Middle Tennessee in the 2017 NCAA Tournament?
Minnesota’s leading scorer on the season, Nate Mason, was barely noticeable on offense for the Gophers. He entered the game averaging 15.5 points per game but was held to just 5 points on Thursday. His first bucket of the game did not come until the 16:31 mark of the second half.