MILWAUKEE (AP) — Reggie Upshaw scored 19 points, Giddy Potts added 15 and Middle Tennessee 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.
Amir Coffey had 17 points to lead Minnesota, while Dupree McBrayer added 16.
But the Gophers got in trouble after 6-foot-10 center Reggie Lynch, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, went to the bench with foul trouble.
The athletic Blue Raiders attacked the lane with Lynch sidelined, then held on after Minnesota charged back from the double-digit deficit. It was an upset by seeding only since Middle Tennessee has proven it can keep up with any team.
Trailing 37-31 at halftime, Minnesota was still in relatively good shape given that Lynch played just 9 minutes because of foul trouble. The Gophers had just two first-half turnovers, but shot 38 percent from the field (10 of 26) in the period.
Middle Tennessee: Six-10 forward Brandon Walters added punch off the bench in the first half with eight points, giving the versatile Blue Raiders another scoring threat. Potts said before practice on Wednesday that his team could keep up with any tempo, and the Blue Raiders proved it after taking advantage of Minnesota when Lynch was on the bench.
Minnesota: It was a bitter ending for a team that bounced back from a five-game losing streak at midseason. But the Gophers program is back on solid footing after returning to the NCAAs for the first time since 2013.
Middle Tennessee faces No. 4 seed Butler in a South Region second-round game on Saturday at the Bradley Center.