Photo by Meagan White // Staff Photographer
Story by Tyler Lamb // Staff Writer
No. 2 seed Middle Tennessee beat No. 10 seed Charlotte 79-61 in a quarterfinal matchup Thursday night to advance to the Conference-USA semifinals in Birmingham, Alabama.
In a game that saw seven lead changes in the first half, the Blue Raiders dominated the second half behind the spectacular play of their biggest players.
With three minutes to go in the first half, MTSU found themselves down by eight.
Blue Raider guard Giddy Potts stepped up when they needed him most, knocking down his first three of the game. With just under a minute to play in the first half, Potts again made a three and was fouled, completing a four-point play.
MTSU forward Reggie Upshaw cut the lead to two with a basket just before halftime, as the Blue Raiders trailed 36-33.
From then on, it was all Middle Tennessee.
The Blue Raiders came out after halftime on a 21-2 run behind the scoring of Upshaw, Perrin Buford and Potts.
Upshaw finished the night by shooting 50 percent from the floor, scoring a game-high 27 and adding nine rebounds.
Buford rarely missed during MTSU’s big run in the second half as he totaled 22 points on a night where he only missed two shots.
Potts scored 18 points, with half of those coming from beyond the arc. It was Potts’ first game back in action after sustaining a concussion against WKU on Feb. 25.
With 6:19 remaining in regulation, the Blue Raiders pushed the lead to 18 points before letting off the gas.
The Blue Raiders shot an astonishing 68 percent in the second half, while holding Charlotte to just 28 percent.
MTSU also scored 46 points in the paint compared to the 49ers’ 22.
While the Blue Raiders cruised to a win Thursday night, MTSU’s energy and stamina will be tested.
MTSU is now playing without guard’s Jacob Ivory (concussion) and Ed Simpson (ankle) at a time where depth can make a difference.
The bench only accounted for three of the Blue Raiders’ 79 points against Charlotte.
MTSU will take on the winner of No. 3 seed Marshall and No. 6 seed UTEP tomorrow at 5:30 p.m CT for a chance at a C-USA championship.
To contact Sports Editor Connor Grott, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Connor_Grott.