Blue Raiders riding high into second round
MILWAUKEE – The first 12-5 upset of the NCAA Tournament came on Thursday afternoon when Middle Tennessee State handled Minnesota, 81-72, at the BMO Bradley Center.
MTSU won its 11th straight and improved to 31-4 on the season. The Blue Raiders used 10 points off turnovers and eight second-chance points to oust the Golden Gophers in a South Regional game.
“We beat a physical, a really physical, tough Big 10 team; a team that had won at Purdue and at Maryland,” MTSU head coach Kermit Davis said. “We go out (down 7-0), but we were getting balls (shots) we wanted. (Reggie) Lynch kind of intimidated us early.
“Balanced scoring and the key today was 37-24 rebounding (edge). So, plus-13 for us is a big part of the win.”
The Blue Raiders led 37-31 at the half. The score was tied five times and there were three lead changes. Brandon Walters scored eight off the bench and Aldonis Foote added five, as MTSU had a 19-8 edge in that category.
Leading 46-38 with 16:31 left in the game, the Blue Raiders scored 13 of the next 17 points to open a 59-42 lead with 11:52 remaining. Reggie Upshaw had a basket and free throw, Tyrik Dixon had a 3-pointer and Giddy Potts had five, including a 3-pointer.
Minnesota closed to 62-58 with 6:43 left, but Middle Tennessee went on a 10-3 run keyed by two Upshaw baskets to make it 72-61 with 2:25 left. Upshaw finished with 19 and Potts finished with 15.
BUTLER 76, WINTHROP 64
The Bulldogs used their size advantage to outscore Winthrop, 20-5, at the foul line en route to a comfortable win.
Winthrop had one more field goal than Butler. The Bulldogs went 20 of 30 at the line compared to 5 of 10 for Winthrop. The Bulldogs also enjoyed a 42-27 edge on the boards.
“That was important for us,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “It is how we need to play. Getting to the free throw line is importamt to us. It needs to be.
“The Big East is brutal, and it’s a very physical league. That was a big part of our game plan to see if we could impact things from the paint out offensively.”
Avery Woodson scored 18 points, all on 3-pointers, to lead the Bulldogs to a win in the first game of the day.
Five of those 3s came in the first half, enabling Butler to build a 41-27 advantage. His sixth, with 18:06 left in the game, tied a career high. The 18-point effort is a basket shy of his career best of 20. He also had a big game against Marquette at the Bradley Center earlier in the year.
“We had good ball movement,” Woodson said. “Our playmakers did a good job of getting me open. Credit goes to them. I just play. I can’t give you a direct answer to why (I have success here). I’m just playing, honestly.”
Winthrop continues to struggle in the tournament, posting just a 1-10 mark in 11 games. Butler, 9-0 against a lower-seeded team, is 22-14 all time in the tournament.
Middle Tennessee will play Butler on Saturday.
PURDUE 80, VERMONT 70
Led by 21 points from Vincent Edwards, the Boilermakers ended Vermont’s 21-game win streak.
Vincent was one of five Purdue players in double figures. Caleb Swanigan added 16 points and 14 rebounds, Dakota Mathias added 13, Carsen Edwards 12 and P.J. Thompson 10.
Vermont, 29-6, also had four players reach double figures – Anthony Lamb with 20, Trae Bell-Haynes had 15, Payton Henson had 13 and Ernie Duncan added 11.
Purdue, 26-7, led 37-36 at the half, and outscored Vermont 43-34 in the second half.