FRISCO, Texas – The tournament maxim survive and advance did not apply for Middle Tennessee as it dropped a gut-wrenching 71-68 overtime decision to Southern Miss in the quarterfinals of the C-USA Championship at the Ford Center at The Star Thursday night.
Ninth-seeded Southern Miss (16-17) staged the tournament’s biggest upset by knocking off the top-seeded Blue Raiders to advance into Friday’s semifinals. The Golden Eagles used one of their best shooting games of the season to derail Middle Tennessee, shooting 52 percent from 3-point range as they knocked down 13-of-25 3-pointers.
Top-seeded Middle Tennessee (24-7) also blistered the nets, shooting 55 percent (11-of-20) from beyond the arc, and 49 percent (26-of-53) overall. One glaring difference between the teams; however, was at the free-throw line. Southern Miss was 12-of-16 at the stripe, while Middle Tennessee only ventured there six times in the 45 minutes contest. The Blue Raiders were 5-of-6 at the free-throw line.
Senior standout Nick King led the way for Middle Tennessee with 17 points and nine rebounds, and Giddy Potts added 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 43 minutes of action. David Simmons (9), Tyrik Dixon (8) and Ed Simpson (8) were also among the leading scorers for the Blue Raiders.
Blue Raider Head Coach Kermit Davis said his team will now have to play the waiting game regarding a possible at-large into the NCAA Tournament.
“We will just have to wait and see what happens Sunday (during the NCAA Selection Show),” Davis said. “We definitely will have a NIT bid, and I believe we would have a good seed in the NIT because of our RPI. I’m not going to toot our horn and get into all that. We will just have to see how things work out for us Sunday.”
Despite a solid shooting night, the Blue Raiders did not get off to a strong start and Southern Miss was able to stay in the game, trailing 30-27 at intermission.
The Golden Eagles led by as many as seven, 49-42, after Cortez Edwards’ 3-pointer with 6:15 remaining, but Middle Tennessee started to making winning plays down the stretch to give itself a chance. King was instrumental in the comeback with nine points in the final 6:39 of regulation . Trailing 61-58, Potts drained a pressure-packed 3-pointer to tie the score at 61 with 17 seconds remaining.
Middle Tennessee held on Southern Miss’ final possession to force overtime and things looked good when Potts hit the first shot of the extra period to put the Blue Raiders on top 63-61 with 4:36 to play. It was the Blue Raiders’ only lead of the frame.
Southern Miss answered with a 7-1 run to go on top 69-64 with 2:34 remaining. The Blue Raiders got to within 70-68 on a King jumper. They had a chance to tie the game at 70, but Potts’ 12-footer was off the mark.
After D’Angelo Richardson hit one of two free throws with 4.4 seconds remaining, Middle Tennessee had a final opportunity but Dixon’s desperation 3-pointer from 40 feet was off of the mark.