Central Michigan coach talks about team's win over LSU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Columbus, Ohio — For the first time in the history of the Central Michigan women’s basketball program, the Chippewas are dancing into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Defeating sixth-seed LSU, 78-69, Saturday, at St. John Arena in Columbus, Central picked up its first program victory in the NCAA Tournament.
“We have a smart basketball team and they really executed our game plan,” said head coach Sue Guevara. “It’s a very big accomplishment for our program and I would say for our senior class.”
Tinara Moore, a senior forward and also the Mid-American Conference player of the year, led her team with 25 points and seven rebounds.
“I was very, very happy that when they played her one-on-one, she went at them,” Guevara said. “She didn’t shy away from the size or the bulk.”
Moore, who also was crowned the MAC defensive player of the year, said there was no doubt her team could go toe-to-toe with an SEC team.
“I was pretty confident in our team,” Moore said. “Our whole team knew we could play with them (LSU) for four quarters.”
Three other Chippewa starters finished the game with double figures, with freshman Micaela “Twin” Kelly scoring 17, and juniors Reyna Frost and Presley Hudson each adding 12.
On the back of a strong 10-point first quarter performance from Hudson, the Chippewas jumped to an early 25-16 lead by the end of the first quarter.
LSU (19-10), the No. 24 team in the latest Associated Press poll, would charge back in the second half with a lockdown defensive effort. The Tigers held CMU to 38.5 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range while outscoring CMU 22-15.
Despite the second-quarter surge, CMU would flip the score in the third and lead the Tigers 62-53 heading into the final quarter.
CMU sealed the victory in the fourth, trading baskets with LSU until the final buzzer.
CMU (29-4) was better than what the selection committee gave it credit when handing out the seedings, LSU coach Nikki Vargas said.
“I think they’re definitely better than an 11 seed,” Vargas said. “Their ability, to not only score the basketball, but you’ve got a group of young ladies who play extremely hard and they play well together.”
CMU will to take on Ohio State on the Buckeyes’ backyard on Monday. Ohio State defeated George Washington, 87-45, Saturday.
While the win over LSU was sweet, Guevara stressed that it’s time to get back to work and prepare for the next challenge.
“They get 24 hours to enjoy it,” Guevara said. “We’re going to watch this next game and get ready. We did this last week, so you know, been there, done that. It’s time to move on.”
Anthony Cook is a freelance writer