It was the first five minutes Friday that allowed Middle Tennessee State to enjoy the last three.
An early 13-point run staked the No. 15 seed Blue Raiders to a lead they never relinquished in their 90-81 victory over No. 2 Michigan State on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, a result some experts called the biggest upset in the history of the event.
The heavily favored Spartans eventually closed to within a single point several times, the last with 3:34 remaining. Just 13 seconds later Perrin Buford made a layup that extended the advantage slightly and eased everyone’s minds extensively.
MTSU did not allow another point until there were 40 seconds remaining and they were in front by seven.
“We were up three and we came up with a huge rebound,” Buford (pictured) said. “We went down and ran some good offense, and I was like, ‘OK, we really got this.’ And I was like, ‘Guys, all the pressure's on them. We're just here trying to have fun and let's get it done.’”
The victory was MTSU’s first in an NCAA Tournament game since 1982 and the program’s second all-time. It also made the Blue Raiders (25-9) the eighth No. 15 seed to win a tournament game since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
They made their first six shots and led 15-2 just 4:30 into the contest. Nine times after that Michigan State (29-6) was within three points or fewer but MTSU never relented.
“Just to jump out like that, it was huge for our team,” junior forward Reggie Upshaw said. “Anytime that you can kind of jump out on a team that's known for their defense like we did, it just gives the whole team a boost of momentum.”
And it helped make the finish a whole lot of fun.
“We felt comfortable,” coach Kermit Davis said. “We felt confident. It was going to be tough. It was about three and a half minutes, we looked at each other, let's enjoy this, let's have fun right here. Somebody told us they made a run, that we're up three, only three and a half, four minutes to go, we'd take that every day. And I think they just played relaxed and real confident.”
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders head basketball coach Kermit Davis discusses his team's huge upset victory over #2 seed Michigan State in their opening round match-up of the NCAA Tournament - on the Tailgate Show with Coach Tom Brennan and Braden Gall.