Bruce Massey had 20 points and 10 rebounds and hit a go-ahead layup with 1:30 left to send Middle Tennessee to a 71-64 win over top-seeded Tennessee on Monday night in the second round of the NIT.
The fourth-seeded Blue Raiders (27-6) closed the game on a 15-0 run. The Sun Belt's regular season champions will face second-seeded Miami or No. 6 seed Minnesota on Wednesday for a spot in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"We got into a timeout and just talked about winning on the defensive end," Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said of the 15-0 run. "There were tons of possessions left. We took advantage of every possession."
Jordan McRae hit a layup with 7:11 remaining to give the Volunteers a 64-56 lead, but those were the last points they scored. Tennessee missed its final nine shots.
Massey followed his go-ahead layup with a blocked shot and a jumper at the other end to make it 67-64 with 39 seconds to go. Raymond Cintron hit four free throws in the final 17 seconds as Skylar McBee, who was 0-for-7 shooting, missed a pair of 3s for Tennessee.
"We were in the same situation against Vanderbilt earlier in the season," Massey said. "We got tired down the stretch. They got tired, but they made the extra push to give them victory. Tonight we didn't want to quit. We didn't want to lose. We found the extra energy to keep going."
LaRon Dendy added 10 points for the Blue Raiders, who finished with a 46-30 rebounding advantage and shot 46.2 percent while limiting the Vols to 37.9 percent shooting.
Jeronne Maymon led Tennessee (19-15) with 17 points. Jarnell Stokes scored 15 points, and Trae Golden added 14.
"I think we had good looks, but obviously when I watch the film I may see otherwise," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. "We had some looks that just didn't fall, and that's part of it."
Middle Tennessee used an 8-0 run to grab a 23-11 lead with 8:37 in the first half.
Golden hit a jump shot and dished the ball to Maymon for a layup, the start of a 14-2 run for the Vols. Josh Richardson spun around and hit a mid-range jumper to tie the game at 25 points with 3:01 in the first half.
James Gallman hit a pair of 3-pointers to push Middle Tennessee's lead back to 36-29 with 1:04.
The Blue Raiders couldn't keep from picking up fouls while guarding Tennessee around the basket, and the Vols got a three-point play from Stokes and a pair of free throws from McRae in the final 48 seconds of the half to cut MTSU's halftime lead to 36-34.
Tennessee, which struggled all night from the perimeter, started to go inside more to Maymon and Stokes in the second half and slowly built its lead to 8 points.
Middle Tennessee late efforts to keep Tennessee away from the basket were far more successful, forcing the Vols to take deeper shots. Tennessee, normally a 70 percent free throw shooting team, didn't help itself when it did get to the line, hitting just 19 of 30.
"We just couldn't get a bucket," Maymon said. "We were running our offense, and we just couldn't put the ball in the hole."