NCAA Tournament: Middle Tennessee’s Cinderella story alive again after win against Minnesota


Associated Press

Middle Tennessee State's JaCorey Williams celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament first round game against Minnesota Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Milwaukee. Middle Tennessee State won 81-72. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)


ON THE WEB

Four NCAA Tournament games did not complete by press time. For the complete roundup of Thursday’s games, visit timesleader.com.

MILWAUKEE — Reggie Upshaw scored 19 points, Giddy Potts added 15 and Middle Tennessee State took down another Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament, beating Minnesota 81-72 on Thursday.

Twelfth-seeded Middle Tennessee proved it was no one-year wonder after upsetting Michigan State as a No. 15 seed last March.

The Blue Raiders (31-4) instead 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 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.

Coach Kermit Davis’ club will move on to face No. 4 seed Butler in the second round on Saturday.

A season of redemption came to an end for fifth-seeded Minnesota (24-10), which bounced back from an eight-win season in 2015-16 to return to the NCAAs.

No. 4 Butler 76,

No. 13 Winthrop 64

MILWAUKEE — Avery Woodson scored 18 points and tied a career high with six 3-pointers in his NCAA Tournament debut to lead Butler past Winthrop.

Woodson, a graduate transfer from Memphis, hit five 3s in the first half to help the fourth-seeded Bulldogs 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 for the 13th-seeded Eagles.

Xavier Cooks had 23 points to lead Big South champion Winthrop (26-7).

Butler (24-8) looked comfortable all afternoon at the Bradley Center, the home of Big East rival Marquette. The last time the Bulldogs played in Milwaukee, Woodson scored 17 points in a 68-65 victory over Marquette last month.

One more win in Milwaukee and Butler could advance to their fifth Sweet 16 since 2003.

EAST REGION

No. 4 Florida 80,

No. 13 East Tennessee St. 65

ORLANDO, Fla. — Devin Robinson tied his career-high with 24 points, Kasey Hill added 14 and No. 4 seed Florida used a second-half surge to beat 13th-seeded East Tennessee State.

Robinson, an NBA prospect who had been relatively quiet late in the season, scored his most points in nearly two months. He made 10 of 17 shots and chipped in seven rebounds. The speedy Hill reached double figures for the fourth consecutive game. He also added six rebounds and five assists for his most complete game in a month.

Kevarrius Hayes, filling in for injured center John Egbunu, finished with seven points, seven rebounds and six steals. He broke the school record for steals in an NCAA Tournament game.

No. 5 Virginia 76,

No. 12 UNC Wilmington 71

ORLANDO, Fla. — London Perrantes scored 24 points, Marial Shayok added a career-high 23 off the bench and No. 5 seed Virginia rallied from 15 points down to beat 12th-seeded UNC Wilmington.

Perrantes scored 19 points in the second half as the Cavaliers (23-10) got their slow-paced offense going. His biggest bucket was a driving bank shot with 1:37 remaining, which put the Cavs up 71-66.

UNCW (29-6) wouldn’t go away, though. Chris Flemmings drained a 3-pointer from the elbow and then Devontae Cacok hit a layup to make it 73-71 with less than a minute to play. But Shayok answered on the other end, banking in a runner that gave the Cavs some breathing room in the closing seconds.

Virginia advanced past the first round for the fourth consecutive year and won as a No. 5 seed for the first time in four tries. The Cavs can thank Perrantes and Shayok for making it happen.

No. 8 Wisconsin 84,

No. 9 Virginia Tech 74

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bronson Koenig made a school-record eight 3-pointers and scored 28 points and Nigel Hayes added 16 as NCAA Tournament-tested Wisconsin advanced.

The eighth-seeded Badgers (26-9) made all the big plays in the closing minutes to set up a meeting with top-seeded Villanova on Saturday. The Wildcats shook off a sluggish and strange first half and downed Mount St. Mary’s 76-56.

No team understands the survive-and-advance mentality in this tourney better than Wisconsin, the only team in the country to make the Sweet 16 last three years.

And the Badgers counted on Koenig and Hayes, two of their four senior starters, to get them within one win of another trip to the third round.

Zach Leday scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half to pace the Hokies (22-11), making their first NCAA visit since 2007.

MIDWEST REGION

No. 4 Purdue 80,

No. 13 Vermont 70

MILWAUKEE — Vincent Edwards scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, and Purdue held off Vermont for its first victory in the NCAA Tournament in five years.

Caleb Swanigan added 16 points, 14 rebounds and four assists for the fourth-seeded Boilermakers (26-7), who were upset by Arkansas-Little Rock in double-overtime in the first round of last year’s tournament. Dakota Mathias made three of Purdue’s nine 3-pointers and finished with 13 points.

It was Vermont’s first loss this calendar year. The Catamounts (29-6), the regular-season and tournament champions in the America East, had the nation’s longest active win streak at 21 games. But they were unable to make up for a huge disadvantage inside against the bigger, stronger Boilermakers.

No. 5 Iowa State 84,

No. 12 Nevada 73

MILWAUKEE — Monte Morris had 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and Iowa State outlasted Nevada to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.

Deonte Burton added 14 points and eight rebounds as the fifth-seeded Cyclones won for the 10th time in their last 11 games, building off their impressive run through the Big 12 Tournament. Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas had 13 points apiece.

Iowa State (24-10) will try for its third Sweet 16 appearance in four years when it takes on No. 4 seed Purdue on Saturday.

Cameron Oliver scored 22 points for Nevada (28-7), which had won nine straight by an average of 15 points. Jordan Caroline had 20 points and eight rebounds, and Marcus Marshall finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

WEST REGION

No. 1 Gonzaga 66,

No. 16 South Dakota St. 46

SALT LAKE CITY — Jordan Mathews scored 16 points to help Gonzaga slowly pull away from South Dakota State and avoid the first 1 vs. 16 upset in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

It looked possible for a while.

The Jackrabbits (18-17), champions of the Summit League, led for the first 17 minutes of Thursday’s game in the West region and stayed in range for most of the game.

They did it without a breakout game from Mike Daum. The nation’s second-leading scorer finished 7 for 16 from the floor with 17 points — more than eight below his average.

Daum did a nice job on Gonzaga’s 7-foot-1 center, Przemek Karnowski, holding him to four points over the first 32 minutes.

But Karnowski, who finished with 10 points, scored three straight buckets for the Bulldogs (33-1) to help them expand the lead to 20 with 5 minutes left, and it was over.

No. 2 Arizona 100,

No. 15 North Dakota 82

SALT LAKE CITY — Freshman Lauri Markkanen scored 20 points as second-seeded Arizona cruised to a 100-82 victory over No. 15 North Dakota on Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA’s West Regional.

Arizona used a 13-1 run early in the first half to take 24-13 lead and never looked back. The Wildcats (31-4) lead 53-37 at halftime thanks to a dominant 16-point half from Markkanen and a 61.1 shooting percentage in the first 20 minutes.

The Wildcats will face seventh-seeded Saint Mary’s in the second round on Saturday. The Gaels beat VCU 85-77.

It was almost as if Arizona’s players were taking turns scoring. Allonzo Trier continued his late-season success and had a highlight tomahawk dunk to push the lead to 44-27. He finished with 18 points.

Rawle Alkins was aggressive early and scored 20 while Dusan Ristic started hot in the second half and added 12.

Markkanen, who’s expected to be a high first-round NBA draft pick, was a constant as North Dakota couldn’t match his size (7-foot, 230 pounds) or skill.

Quinton Hooker led the Fighting Hawks (22-10) with 25 points and Drick Bernstine added 20.

No. 3 Florida State 86,

No. 14 FGCU 80

ORLANDO, Fla. — Dwayne Bacon scored 25 points and Jonathan Isaac added 17 points and 10 rebounds to help the third-seeded Florida State Seminoles hold off No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast.

The Seminoles (26-8), making their first appearance since 2012 in the NCAAs, advanced on in the West Region.

The Eagles (26-8) saw their tournament hopes end in the first round for the second straight year. But FGCU made it interesting in the waning moments as the Seminoles let a sizeable lead slip away because of missed free throws and untimely fouls. Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes made enough plays down the stretch to not allow the lead to slip completely away.

No. 4 West Virginia 86,

No. 13 Bucknell 80

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nathan Adrian had 12 points and 10 rebounds, leading West Virginia past Bucknell in the first round.

Tarik Phillip scored 16 points for the West Region’s fourth-seeded Mountaineers, who struggled at times with the outside-shooting Bison. West Virginia (27-9) avoided a repeat of last year’s first-round meltdown when the third-seeded Mountaineers lost to Stephen F. Austin.

This win sets up a meeting against the region’s fifth-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who hung on for a 60-58 win over Princeton earlier on Thursday.

Kimbal Mackenzie made 5 of 7 3-point attempts and led the Patriot League-champion Bison with 23 points. Bucknell (26-9) entered the tournament having won six straight and 14 of 16.

No. 5 Notre Dame 60,

No. 12 Princeton 58

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bonzie Colson scored 18 points and Notre Dame survived a first-round scare by pulling out a two-point win over Princeton.

The West Region’s 12th-seeded Tigers had a chance to pull ahead on their final possession, but Devin Cannady missed an open 3-pointer just before the final horn. Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia pulled down the rebound and was fouled.

The Fighting Irish (26-9) nearly squandered an 11-point second half lead. Guard Matt Farrell scored 16 points, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with Notre Dame up 59-58.

Spencer Weisz led the Tigers with 15 points. The Ivy League champion Tigers (23-7) had a 19-game winning streak going into the NCAA Tournament.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s 85,

No. 10 VCU 77

SALT LAKE CITY — Jock Landale had 18 points and 13 rebounds as seventh-seeded Saint Mary’s held against No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament’s West Region on Thursday night.

The Gaels led most of the way, but had to fight to hold on after the VCU defensive pressure started to become too much in the second half.

Joe Rahon and Calvin Hermanson finished with 16 points apiece for Saint Mary’s.

JeQuan Lewis paced VCU with 30 points.

No. 8 Northwestern 68,

No. 9 Vanderbilt 66

SALT LAKE CITY — Northwestern got its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, Vanderbilt guard Matthew Fisher-Davis inexplicably grabbed Wildcats guard Bryant McIntosh on purpose, sending McIntosh to the free throw line for the go-ahead points with 15 seconds left.

Riley LaChance made a layup with 18 seconds remaining in Thursday’s game to put the ninth-seeded Commodores up by one after trailing by as many as 15.

But seconds after the in-bounds pass, Fisher-Davis reached out and grabbed McIntosh while he was in the backcourt. That put eighth-seeded Northwestern in the double bonus, and McIntosh went to the line and calmly swished the free throws with 15 seconds left.

LaChance missed a 3 on the next possession and eighth-seeded Northwestern (24-11) got another free throw.

No. 11 Xavier 76,

No. 6 Maryland 65

ORLANDO, Fla. — Trevon Bluiett scored 21 points and Sean O’Mara had 18 to help No. 11 seed Xavier upset sixth-seeded Maryland.

The Musketeers move on in the West region, marking the third straight year they have advanced to the second round. Maryland, which has started three freshmen for much the season, lost in the first round for the first time since 1997.

After a slow start, Bluiett came through with 18 second-half points to help the Musketeers rally from an early 6-point deficit. Bluiett converted seven field goals, including five 3-pointers to energize Xavier.

Freshman Kevin Huerter led the Terps with 19 points while star guard Melo Trimble had 13 points, but made only one-third of his shots.

Middle Tennessee State's JaCorey Williams celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament first round game against Minnesota Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Milwaukee. Middle Tennessee State won 81-72. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
http://timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/web1_MSU-Minnesota.jpgMiddle Tennessee State's JaCorey Williams celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament first round game against Minnesota Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Milwaukee. Middle Tennessee State won 81-72. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Associated Press

ON THE WEB

Four NCAA Tournament games did not complete by press time. For the complete roundup of Thursday’s games, visit timesleader.com.

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