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Blog: Shocker! MSU falls to Middle Tennessee

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News
Tom Izzo has words with Bryn Forbes during the first half.

This is one for the record books

In what has to be the most shocking loss of Tom Izzo's coaching career, the Spartans fell to Middle Tennessee State, 90-81, to become just the eighth 2-seed to fall to a 15-seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

It's the first 15-2 upset since 2013's Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown.

On the stat line, Denzel Valentine had a decent game with 13 points and 12 assists in the final game of his career. Matt Costello led all scorers with 22.

The Spartans turned the ball over and Middle Tennessee broke free of the press defense for a dunk from Reggie Upshaw to give his team an 83-76 lead with just under 40 seconds remaining. Valentine got his first basket of the second half and a poor free throw shooting Middle Tennessee team knocked down some pressure-packed ones to finish this one off.

Reggie Upshaw scored 21 and Giddy Potts had 20 for the Blue Raiders.

Potts with a big shot

Giddy Potts just hit a jumper in the lane and it's now 81-76 with 54 seconds left to play.

Spartans just can't hit the big one

It's 79-76 with 1:08 to play.

Colby Wollenman hit two free throws out of the timeout to once again cut the Blue Raiders lead to one at 77-76. But Perrin Buford hit a tough shot and got fouled before missing the free throw to push the lead back to 79-76.

Denzel Valentine, who hasn't scored in the second half, was called for traveling on the next MSU possession. Valentine then missed a three after a Spartan steal. After an empty Blue Raider possession, Matt Costello missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

Harris hits a big one

Eron Harris hit a big-time 3-pointer following a ridiculous reverse layup from Jaqawn Raymond. It's now 77-74 with 3:34 left to play.

Crunch time for Izzo's Spartans

If you're an MSU fan, you're nervous.

Matt Costello continues to play big and be the saving grace for MSU, who trails 75-71, with 5:01 remaining.

Darnell Harris hit a 3-pointer and was answered by Eron Harris to cut the MTSU lead back to two. There was Reggie Upshaw with the bucket to push the lead back to four, and the teams are going back-and-forth right now, both struggling to get stops.

Costello cut the lead to one at 65-64. But the Blue Raiders answered with a 3-point play from Darnell Harris, and MSU just can't seem to get over the hump.

The Spartans have not led today and the game hasn't been tied since it was 2-2.

Spartans throw a punch

Matt Costello continues to be MSU's biggest weapon, Bryn Forbes has found his stroke, and the Spartans have cut the Blue Raiders lead to three at 65-62 with 8:42 remaining.

MSU has made its last six shots and is shooting 56 percent for the game. Problem is, Middle Tennessee is shooting 57 percent with two more made 3-pointers.

Denzel Valentine came back into the game at the 9:25 mark after taking a seat with three fouls.

MSU needs to dig deep to avoid historic upset

Bryn Forbes hit a big 3-pointer, but Giddy Potts answered with one of his own, and Middle Tennessee continues to push back anytime the Spartans appear ready to mount a run.

Forbes has another three to his credit, and Matt Costello continues to be a handful as he's got 16 points nows.

The problem is that MSU can't string together stops on the defensive end. A 3-point play from Quavius Copeland has pushed the lead back to nine at 62-53 with 11:15 to play.

The Spartans are in trouble. Denzel Valentine has picked up his third foul. I'm not so sure Tom Izzo can have his best player on the bench for a long stretch. Valentine has eight points, eight assists and six rebounds. He's also turned the ball over five times.

Blue Raiders aren't going anywhere

MSU cut the Middle Tennessee lead to two at 45-43, but the Blue Raiders answered by making plays on the defensive end and pushing their lead back to eight at 51-43 with 15:24 remaining.

Matt Costello has 13 points and continues to thrive in the paint. If the Spartans can get a few more shot to fall from beyond the arc (they're 5-for-11), they should be in decent shape.

Jaqawn Raymond hit the first jumper of the half for Middle Tennessee to push its lead back to eight, but there was finally a Bryn Forbes sighting as the senior hit his first bucket of the day from 3-point land.

Reggie Upshaw has 13 points to pace the Blue Raiders, while Giddy Potts has 10.

Spartans right in the thick of March's madness

It certainly wasn't a start that Tom Izzo is going to speak about in glowing terms. The Spartans fell behind 15-2 to hot-shooting Middle Tennessee, and though they've fought their way back, it appears the Blue Raiders are planning on staying in this one well into the second half.

Shockingly, MSU trails, 41-35, at halftime.

Middle Tennessee is shooting 8-for-12 from beyond the arc, which is definitely a recipe for success when it comes to a mid-major looking to score a historic upset. They even got a 4-point play when Denzel Valentine followed Jaqawn Raymond, who drilled a 3-pointer and made the free throw with just under two minutes left in the half.

The Spartans have been at their best on offense when they've dumped the ball inside to their bigs. Matt Costello has seven points. Valentine has done his part with eight points and six assists, but he's going to need some help. Bryn Forbes hasn't scored and that's a problem.

Blue Raiders show staying power

While MSU has rebounded from its slow start, Middle Tennessee isn't interested in just being the team that got off to a hot start before fading away. It still leads, 35-29, with 3:03 left to play before halftime.

The Blue Raiders got a couple buckets at the rim out of the timeout, showing that they aren't afraid to put the ball on the deck and do some work in the paint. Still, this team's bread and butter is the 3-point line, and Reggie Upshaw knocked down back-to-back long balls to put his team back up by nine. Denzel Valentine answered with MSU's third 3-pointer of the day.

MSU starting to dial it in

The activity has picked up on the defensive end and the 3-point barrage from Middle Tennessee has slowed. The Spartans are feeing the ball into the post and are getting positive results. The Blue Raiders lead has been almost entirely erased. It's 25-22 with 7:23 left to play in the first half.

Denzel Valentine has five points and four assists. Matt Costello has seven points for the Spartans.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel...

Matt Costello got an easy dunk to end a 13-0 Middle Tennessee run and Marvin Clark Jr. hit a 3-pointer after the Blue Raiders missed its first from beyond the arc. Denzel Valentine added one of his own and it appeared to Spartans were settling in, but another 3-pointer from the underdog put MSU down double digits again. That's where we sit now, 20-10, Blue Raiders lead with 10:52 to play in the first half.

Tom Izzo's team comes out flat...really flat

Middle Tennessee is off to a strong start and looks unafraid of the daunting task at hand. The Blue Raiders are 6-for-6 from the field and the MSU defense doesn't look anything like that of a Big Ten Champion. It looks more like a team that is tired and isn't taking the start of this tournament seriously. It's 15-2, yes 15-2, Middle Tennessee leads with 15:29 to play in the first half.

The Blue Raiders are 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. That number will obviously come down, but a fast start like this almost assuredly means this is going to be a game all the way through.

MSU is 1-for-5 from the field and haven't had a good look since its first bucket.

Darnell Harris hit a confident jumper on the game's opening possession for Middle Tennessee. Denzel Valentine found Deyonta Davis for an easy two and the Spartans' only points.

Syracuse destroys Dayton, awaits MSU

In a bit of a surprise, the 10th-seeded Orange handled Dayton pretty easily in the second half, cruising to a 70-51 victory in the first round.

That puts us halfway to a matchup of legendary coaches in the second round as Jim Boeheim awaits Tom Izzo and his Spartans.

A lot of people thought Syracuse didn't belong in the field. That must have served as motivation because the Orange broke open a tight game in the second half, outscoring Dayton, 40-23.

MSU primed for a Final Four run

I'm not telling you anything you don't already know: Tom Izzo is the master of March. This year, with an experienced team and a mediocre field, the stars all seemed to be aligned for a Spartans run.

Things get started today against Middle Tennessee, and there's very little reason to think that MSU will have trouble disposing of its first round opponent. The Spartans are riding high after winning the Big Ten tournament last weekend, Denzel Valentine looks like the best player in the country, and the supporting cast have all contributed in the last few weeks. The only thing that can really hold this team back is overconfidence, but Izzo-coached teams rarely come into a tournament game unfocused.

Get out there, do your job, get some rest. That's the recipe for a successful first round for the green and white.