If the game were just 4 minutes and 31 seconds, then we would have had a stunning upset at Scottrade Center Friday. At that point of the game, Middle Tennessee was leading Michigan State 15-2. Ah but there were 35 minutes and 29 seconds left and you knew Michigan State would respond.
If the game were just 20 minutes, then we would have had a stunning upset in downtown Saint Louis. At that point, the Blue Raiders were leading the Spartans 41-35. Ah but there were 20 minutes left, and you knew Michigan State would respond.
At the half Middle Tennessee was out rebounding Michigan State 13-12. The Blue Raiders are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation, and at Friday's intermission they were 8 of 12 from deep. Reggie Upshaw had connected on 3 of 5, and the nation's best percentage sharp shooter, Giddy Potts, was 2-for-3.
Michigan State all-American Denzel Valentine made two trifectas of his own, on his way to eight first half points, and was keeping the Spartans close with four rebounds and six assists. Deyonta Davis tied Valentine for first half honors with eight points.
If the game were just 28 minutes and 45 seconds, then we would have an historic upset in the Gateway City. At that point, Middle Tennessee was leading Michigan State 62-53. Ah but there were 11 minutes and 15 seconds left, and you knew Michigan State would respond.
With 3:34 left the Blue Raiders were still holding on behind brilliant 3-point shooting and clutch defense, 77-76. You knew Michigan State would respond.
Over the final three minutes, the Blue Raiders answered every challenge. Perrin Buford extended the lead with a driving lay up. Potts buried a jumper and Middle Tennessee led 81-76. Reggie Upshaw's dunk with 40 seconds left ended the mystery. The Raiders led 83-76.
The Middle Tennessee defense locked the Spartans down. With the game on the line, the Spartans went three minutes and five seconds without a point, and the Raiders had the biggest upset of this tournament. Middle Tennessee pulled off just the eighth first round win by a 15-seed in March Madness history. The final score: 90-81.
Head Coach Kermit Davis played five players the bulk of the game, and all five starters scored in double figures. Reggie Upshaw led the way with 21 points, Potts added 19, while Harris and Buford chipped in with 15, and Jaqawn Raymond netted 11.
Middle Tennessee shot 56 percent from the field and almost 58 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said he was shocked by some the shots they made.
"The better team won today. They outplayed us and out coached us," Izzo said. "In my wildest dreams I didn't believe they'd hit some of the shots they did."
Of the upset, Blue Raider Head Coach Kermit Davis said his team was confident they could win.
"This was a spectacular day for Middle Tennessee basketball, for our fans and for our state," gushed Davis. "Our guys had a great belief that we could win, we really did. All week long they had a great belief in practice."
The players were confident. Buford said the players did truly believe.
"We weren't scared of the moment," Buford said. "Coach said that we should just do what got us here and we'd be fine."
The game lasted a full 40 minutes and we had one of the most unlikely, and stunning upset victories in NCAA tournament history. Next up for Middle Tennessee (25-9) are the Orange of Syracuse (20-13) on Sunday.