BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Reggie Upshaw scored the game’s final four points including two-free throws with two seconds remaining to lift No. 2 seeded Middle Tennessee (24-9) over No. 5 seeded Old Dominion (22-13) by a heartbreaking 55-53 score in the 2016 Conference USA Championship on Saturday afternoon at Legacy Arena. Trey Freeman and Aaron Bacote were named to the All-Tournament Team.
ODU’s Zoran Talley drilled a running floater with 1:11 remaining in the contest to give the Monarchs a 53-51 lead, before Upshaw tied the game back up with a tip-in at the 51-second mark.
With 30 seconds remaining, Talley missed a jumper in which MT’s Xavier Habersham grabbed the defensive rebound, leading to Upshaw getting fouled by ODU’s Denzell Taylor with two seconds showing on the game-clock.
Aaron Bacote had a desperation heave from half-court, which fell short, giving the Blue Raiders an automatic bid to the 2016 NCAA Tournament next week.
“Congratulations to Middle Tennessee," said ODU head coach Jeff Jones. "They have at terriﬁc basketball team. That was a hard fought game. That’s a hard one to lose, but they’re an excellent team and we certainly wish them well. From our perspective, I’m really proud of this group. We didn’t play well, Middle Tennessee had an awful lot to do with that. But our guys scrapped and left everything out there on the ﬂoor, but they’ve been doing that for most of the year quite honestly.”
Trey Freeman led all scorers with 17 points to go along with seven rebounds. Freeman ended up with a Conference USA Tournament record, scoring 109 points, which included a single-game tournament record of 42 in the semifinals. For the tournament, Freeman averaged 27.3 points per game.
Aaron Bacote scored 15 points while going a perfect 7-7 from the free-throw line. Brandan Stith hauled down a game-high 12 rebounds to compliment five points and two blocks.
The Monarchs won seven of its last eight contests and claimed victory in 12 of their last 15 games.
Saturday’s game experienced a total of 11 lead changes and 10 ties. ODU held Middle Tennessee to 36.5% (19-52) shooting for the contest. The Monarchs held advantages in points off turnovers (16-9) and second chance points (19-10) for the game.
Old Dominion is now 0-7 all-time against Middle Tennessee, with two losses this season coming by a combined five points.
For the game, Old Dominion held a lead for 17:42, while the Blue Raiders led for 14:23; the game was tied for a total of 7:55. The 108 combined points by both teams made it the lowest scoring C-USA Championship final game since 2009 when Memphis defeated Tulsa, 64-39 (103 points).
Middle Tennessee was led by Giddy Potts’ 14 points on 4-5 shooting from deep. Darnell Harris followed with 10 points, while Perrin Buford, Reggie Upshaw and Jaqawn Raymond each chipped in nine points.
With 12:55 to play in the contest, the Monarchs held onto a 37-34 lead. Middle Tennessee regained and then stretched the lead, 43-39, forcing an ODU timeout at the 10:24 mark. A Denzell Taylor tip-in and-one brought Old Dominion back within two, 46-44, with 7:42 to play.
Two made Freeman free-throws gave ODU a 47-46 advantage with 5:58 remaining in regulation. ODU went on an 8-0 run and has retook the lead on MT, 49-46, with 4:56 left in regulation. By the last media timeout of the second half (3:17), the game was all tied up at 49-49.
FIRST HALF With 8:38 to play in the opening half, the Blue Raiders led 18-14. The Monarchs went on a 14-4 run and claim a 28-22 lead, its largest of the ballgame at that point with 48 seconds remaining in the first half, before taking a 28-23 advantage with them into the locker room at halftime.
In a first half which experienced eight lead changes and six ties, Aaron Bacote led all scorers with 11 points, going a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe. Freeman chipped in eight points and four rebounds, while Stith grabbed a half-high seven rebounds.
The Monarchs out-rebounded the Blue Raiders 20-15 in the first half and held advantages for points in the paint (16-10), as well as second chance points (9-1). ODU held MT to 33.3% (8-24) shooting from the floor in the opening 20 minutes.
In the first half, Middle Tennessee led for 9:12, while ODU led for 6:16; the game was tied for 4:25 of the 20 minutes.
All-Tournament Team Nigel Snipes, WKU Aaron Bacote, Old Dominion Trey Freeman, Old Dominion Perrin Buford, Middle Tennessee Reggie Upshaw, Middle Tennessee (MVP)
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