Reggie Upshaw, Middle Tenn.
The 6-7 senior forward scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, dropping in key buckets when the Gophers were looking to cut into the Blue Raiders’ lead. Upshaw hit turnarounds, jumpers, layups in the paint and hit a three-pointer. His nine rebounds led MTSU and tied Jordan Murphy for the game high. Upshaw, who also did not have a turnover, was MTSU’s steady leader.
By the numbers
7-0 The Gophers lead to start the game. With the Gophers fans rocking the Bradley Center, MTSU had to call an early timeout.
2 First-round “upsets” of Big Ten teams in a row for Middle Tennessee. Last year, the Blue Raiders beat Michigan State as a No. 15 seed. This year, MTSU was actually favored over Minnesota on the betting line, but the 12-over-5 victory struck again.
28 Points the Gophers got from their two top freshmen, Amir Coffey (a team-high 17 points) and Eric Curry.
11 Rebounding advantage in the first half for MTSU (22 to 11). The Blue Raiders established their physical, aggressive play early.
42 Games since Nate Mason (five points, three assists, four turnovers) last scored five points or fewer.
The Gophers trailed 42-36 early in the second half after Jordan Murphy, above, completed a three-point play with his free throw. Instead of folding, MTSU hit the gas and pulled away with a 15-4 run. A once-small lead ballooned to a game-high 17-point margin. MTSU leaders Reggie Upshaw and Giddy Potts (five points each) powered the run. For the Gophers, Jordan Murphy picked up two fouls in this stretch, and Nate Mason committed two turnovers. Reggie Lynch’s dunk with just over 12 minutes ended a three-minute scoreless stretch for the Gophers, but the damage was done.
Amir Coffey, Jordan Murphy and Richard Pitino said after the game there were several things the young Gophers could take back home from this NCAA tournament experience. Akeem Springs is now a former Gopher, but the rest of the roster will be eyeing a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance a year from now.