Mid­dle Tenn. cruises to win

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By The As­so­ci­ated Press

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).

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