After an opening day of the NCAA tournament with no upsets more spectacular than a No. 10 seed winning, Central Michigan wasted no time Saturday erasing some of the bracket chalk.
A team that the seeding suggests might have received an at-large bid even if it hadn't won the MAC's automatic bid, No. 11 Central Michigan defeated No. 6 LSU 78-69 in Columbus, Ohio. It is the first NCAA tournament win in program history for the Chippewas.
Tinara Moore's 25 points led four Central Michigan players in double figures, while Presley Hudson had eight assists and Reyna Frost added 12 rebounds.
In its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2013, when it scared Oklahoma in the opening round, Central Michigan is the first No. 11 seed to win since 2015. Mid-majors Gonzaga and Arkansas-Little Rock were among three such seeds to advance to the second round that year.
How it was won: Central Michigan jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the game, but it gave it all back by the opening minutes of the second half after struggling with LSU's man-to-man defense. Rather than waver with its lead gone, Central Michigan loosened that defense by going inside to Moore again and again and playing an inside-outside game off of that base.
With limited depth -- starters played all but 14 minutes -- the Chippewas didn't commit excessive turnovers against a defense that forces them well. They limited their own foul trouble to just Frost and didn't look nervous. A team that loves to push tempo, Central Michigan played a fantastic half-court game and still got close to its 82.5 points per game average as free throws piled up late.
Player of the game: It was such a complete performance from the Chippewas that it's almost unfair to pick one, but Moore gets the nod. LSU was without starting center Faustine Aifuwa because of a violation of teams rules, and it showed on a day when the Tigers needed all hands on deck -- and all feet in the paint -- against both Moore and Frost. Those two alone combined for 19 rebounds, not that far removed from LSU's total as a team.
When LSU tried to make a run in the middle of the third quarter off some rare second-chance points, Moore came through with her two three-point plays in about two minutes to keep the Chippewas in control. They led by at least two possessions almost the rest of the way.
Stat of the game: Central Michigan hit seven 3-pointers. That's a meaningful stat precisely because it wasn't out of the ordinary for the MAC champions. It's what they do. The Chippewas entered the tournament 13th nationally in 3-pointers made per game. Teams ranked in the top 50 went 5-2 on Friday, with one of the losses against another team in the top 50. There are limits to the magic. Just ask Saint Francis (Pennsylvania) after its encounter with UConn. But from the NBA through every level of basketball, the 3-pointer is increasingly understood for the asset it can be. LSU certainly missed that option as it tried to chip away at the lead.
What's next: Central Michigan awaits the winner between No. 3 Ohio State and No. 14 George Washington. If it is Ohio State, the Chippewas lost their only game against a Big Ten team this season in the season opener at home against Purdue. Given that Ohio State was one of only six teams in the nation that averaged more points per game than Central Michigan, that potential matchup could test the third column on the scoreboard.