by Ryan Nelson
MILWAUKEE -- While the NCAA Tournament seeds indicate a first-round upset, No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee paced No. 5 seed Minnesota, 81-72, with a ferocity and skill indicative of seasoned March veterans.
The Blue Raiders jumped out to a 59-42 lead before the Golden Gophers began to orchestrate a comeback. But when tested, MTSU proved they were more than deserving of a tournament berth.
Midway through the second half, MTSU's Reggie Upshaw thwarted any potential of a Minnesota comeback with seven consecutive points, to give the Blue Raiders the lift they needed to secure the victory.
Upshaw scored a game-high 19 points on Thursday. JaCorey Williams and Giddy Potts also scored in the teens, dropping 13 and 15 respectively.
MTSU fans were perhaps surprised by the play of Brandon Walters, who averaged 4.5 points on the season, but delivered 10 in the victory.
Minnesota, known for their defensive grit, couldn't slow down the MTSU scoring machine. Nonetheless, the Golden Gophers saw impressive scoring contributions from their usual cast of top performers -- Amir Coffey (17), Dupree McBrayer (16), and Jordan Murphy (15).
The Blue Raiders will face the No. 4 seed Butler Bulldogs this Saturday, March 8. The Bulldogs defeated Winthrop 76-64 in their opening round performance.
The TV time is TBD.