Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 18, 2016
This is why they call it March Madness, ladies and gentlemen. The mighty Michigan State Spartans have fallen to Middle Tennessee State, 90-81, in an epic No. 15 seed over No. 2 seed upset that will go down as one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tourney history.
This was the eighth time a No. 15 beat a No. 2 in Big Dance annals and the first since 2013 when Florida Gulf Coast dumped Georgetown. Michigan State felt slighted on Selection Sunday when it was awarded a No. 2 seed instead of a No. 1 after winning the Big Ten tourney.
Regardless, the Spartans-No. 2 in the AP poll-were hot coming to St. Louis, winners of nine in a row and 13 of their last 14 games since a three-game losing skid in mid-January. But the Spartans never got on track today, falling behind 15-2 from the start and never leading at any point in this game. Middle Tennessee never let up and had no fear, playing aggressive ball while shooting with aplomb.
The star: For Michigan State, Matt Costello did all he could. The big fella notched a game- and career-high 22 points, hitting 9-of-10 shots to go along with nine rebounds. But, it wasn?t enough, especially with superstar Denzel Valentine off his game. This wasn?t how the senior and Big Ten Player of the Year wanted to go out, hitting just 5-of-12 shots for 13 points with five rebounds, 12 assists and a game-high six turnovers, one coming with MSU trailing 79-76 with less than three minutes remaining. Valentine needed to be a star. And, he wasn?t on this day. Reggie Upshaw was the star for Middle Tennessee with 21 points.
The stat: 57.9, Middle Tennessee?s 3-point percentage. The Blue Raiders were on fire and never relented, hitting 11-of-19 from beyond the arc. And Middle Tennessee also forced 14 turnovers while only losing the battle of the glass by two (30-28) to the bigger Spartans.
The key to victory: The great shooting by the Blue Raiders, who hit 55.0 percent from the field (33-of-59). Middle Tennessee entered the game as the nation?s top 3-point team. And, it delivered. Giddy Potts, Darnell Harris and Reggie Upshaw each hit three trifectas.
It was over when: Michigan State?s Colby Wollenman made a free throw with 3:34 to go cut MTSU?s lead to 77-76. But the Spartans would get no closer, as Middle Tennessee State pulled away to close out a stunning 90-81 win in one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tourney history.
What?s next: Not long ago, Tom Izzo was espousing his belief that this team had a chance to win it all. Well, the train ride was stopped well short of the Final Four for Michigan State, which last lost its opening NCAA game in 2011 when it fell to UCLA. This one will hurt for a while in East Lansing for a storied program that has gone to seven Final Fours under Tom Izzo and won the 2000 national title. This club looked poised to add to that glorious resume. MTSU will take on No. 10 Syracuse on Sunday for a chance to go to the Sweet 16. MSU will just go home and think about what might have been.
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