Middle Tenn. cruises to win
milwaukee» Middle Tennessee took down another Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament, though the latest victory didn’t really feel like an upset.
The 12th-seeded Blue Raiders stood up to No. 5 seed Minnesota’s rugged defense, then blew past the foul-prone Golden Gophers for an 81-72 victory on Thursday.
Middle Tennessee proved it was no one-year wonder after shocking Michigan State as a No. 15 seed last March.
“We think we belong on a national stage,” coach Kermit Davis said. “I knew we’d play well, and we did so today.”
Reggie Upshaw scored 19 points and Giddy Potts added 15 for the Blue Raiders (31-4).
No longer a mystery team in March, Middle Tennessee played like seasoned NCAA veterans with the way they held off the Gophers’ comeback attempt from a 17-point deficit in front of a loud and large contingent of Minnesota fans.
Upshaw, a senior captain, responded with seven straight points, including a 3-pointer and a reverse layup during a 7-3 run to help give Middle Tennessee a 10-point lead with 3:40 left.
“I don’t think so at all,” Davis said when asked if he would classify the win as an upset. “We have a lot of respect for Minnesota, but I think our record speaks for itself and what we’ve done all year long.”
The Blue Raiders set a school record for victories and a Conference USA record with 17 league wins.
A season of redemption came to an end for fifth-seeded Minnesota (24-10), which bounced back from an eightwin season in 2015-16 to return to the NCAAs.
Amir Coffey had 17 points to lead Minnesota, and Dupree McBrayer added 16.
(4) Butler 76, (13) Winthrop 64 B
milwaukee» Avery Woodson scored 18 points and tied a career high with six 3pointers in his NCAA Tournament debut to lead the Bulldogs.
Woodson, a graduate transfer from Memphis, hit five 3s in the first half to help the fourthseeded Bulldogs (24-8) build a 14-point halftime lead.
A 12-2 run in the middle of the second half gave Butler a 60-43 lead with less than 8 minutes left and put the game out of reach.
Xavier Cooks had 23 points to lead Big South champion Winthrop (26-7).