Blue Raiders win Conference USA tournament, head back to NCAA Tournament

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For the second straight year, MTSU men's basketball team is on top of Conference USA and headed back to the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 25-ranked Blue Raiders (30-4) repeated as Conference-USA champions after defeating Marshall 83-72 on Saturday at Legacy Arena.

Tournament MVP Giddy Potts led the Blue Raiders with 30 points, eight rebounds and two assists.

By winning the C-USA tournament, the Blue Raiders are guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament. MTSU shocked No. 2-seeded Michigan State in last year's NCAA Tournament capturing one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.

"It's quite an honor to get 30 wins and go back to the NCAA Tournament," head coach Kermit Davis said. "Our team will enjoy this.

"Our team thinks we've got a lot of basketball left and that's our mindset going forward."

Davis' squad used a late-season surge after falling to UTEP in the regular season and have now pulled off 10 straight wins since losing at UTEP on Feb. 4 and have posted one of the best records after New Year's Day.

MTSU was able to avenge the loss to UTEP on Friday in the conference semifinals cruising to an 82-56 win and setting up a showdown with Dan D'Antoni's red-hot Marshall squad for the third time this season.

Marshall (20-15) used a C-USA tournament record 19 3-point field goals to get into the final game but MTSU was able to stop one of C-USA's top offensive teams behind its 1-3-1 defense.

The Herd started out an abysmal 0-for-10 from 3-point range before hitting their first 3-pointer with four minutes left in the first half and MTSU worked the ball inside the post to power forward and Birmingham native JaCorey Williams, who moved to sixth on the single season scoring list (588 points).

"For the first 13 minutes, we guarded about as well as we can guard," Davis said.

However the Herd did not go away quietly and came out hot from 3-point range in the second half. MTSU had trouble guarding open looks but the Blue Raiders were able to prevent a massive collapse.

"They got good offensive schemes and when they made their run, it was all transition," Davis said. "Holding them to 39 percent is big for us."

With the win, Davis locked up his seventh conference title and third NCAA Tournament appearance at MTSU, the most out of any stops during his 30 years of coaching.

For senior forward Reggie Upshaw, the feeling felt twice as nice after winning his second-strait tournament title.

"There is nothing better than going out as a champion," Upshaw said. "This is something I'll be able to talk about for years to come.

"Just to be able to say we won the regular season title outright, then came back in and took care of business in the conference tournament."

MTSU's opponent for the NCAA Tournament's First Round will be revealed on Selection Sunday. The team will host a watch party at the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame beginning at 4:15 p.m.

The reveal begins at 4:30 p.m. CT on CBS.

This story originally appeared on the Daily News Journal’s website.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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