SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- Central Michigan has replaced Creighton as the hottest mid-major in the NCAA Tournament.
Mike Manciel scored a season-high 29 points as the 11th-seeded Chippewas held off a furious rally by the Bluejays for a 79-73 victory in the first round of the West Region.
Central Michigan (25-6) won for the 13th time in 14 games. Sixth-seeded Creighton (29-5), which was ranked since mid-December, saw one of the best seasons in school history come to an end.
"I told the guys a long time ago, we're here to finish," Manciel said. "Tonight I got a lot of good looks, I just tried to step up and knock them down."
The Chippewas took advantage of the Bluejays' sloppy play in the first half to build a 38-22 lead, forcing 13 turnovers. Manciel's two free throws capped a 10-2 surge that opened a 48-24 cushion with just over 17 minutes left.
But Creighton finally displayed the form that made it a fixture in the rankings, sinking 11 straight shots at one point. A jumper by Larry House got the Bluejays within 72-70 with 1:39 left.
Manciel capped Central Michigan's next possession with a jumper from the baseline for a four-point lead. The Bluejays followed with a turnover when Joe Dabbert dropped the ball out of bounds.
"It looked like the rope was really running out with three or four minutes to play, but I thought our kids dug their heels in," Central Michigan coach Jay Smith said. "I thought they did a very good job."
The Chippewas made 5-of-6 free throws to seal the victory.
"We fought really hard to get back to that point," Creighton forward Mike Lindeman said. "But I think towards the end, we ran out of gas."
Central Michigan, playing in the tournament for the first time since 1987, will face Duke in the second round.
Chris Kaman, the Mid-American Player of the Year, had just 12 points and seven rebounds for Central Michigan. The 7-foot Kaman was in foul trouble and struggled to get untracked, but Manciel and his teammates made up for it.
"I'm really proud of the way we played without Chris in the game," Smith said.
Manciel made 9-of-14 shots and 11-of-16 at the line. Tony Bowne made all three 3-pointers for 14 points and J.R. Wallace chipped in 12 points.
Central Michigan never trailed and took the lead for good with a 16-5 tear that opened up a 26-15 lead with less than seven minutes to go in the first half. Manciel's two baskets finished a run of eight straight points to close the half for a 16-point bulge at the break.
"In the first half, we were breaking their trapping and getting easy layups," Wallace said. "In the second half, we tried to do that and we got a little careless with the ball."
A basket by Mike Grimes completed a 15-5 surge by Creighton, cutting the deficit to 51-40 with 13:42 remaining. Bowne nailed a pair of 3-pointers around one by Kyle Korver to push the lead back out to 14 points.
"They hit a couple of threes," Korver said. "They just took the wind out of our sails."
Manciel nailed a jumper for a 72-61 advantage with 3:58 left to play, but Creighton had one final run in it. House had a layup, Tyler McKinney made a foul shot and Grimes scored on back-to-back follow shots. House's shot made it a one-possession game, but the Bluejays ran out of time.
Korver, the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, collected 21 points and nine rebounds in his final game for Creighton. Grimes came off the bench for 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and House finished with 11 for the Bluejays, who committed 21 turnovers.
"It's disappointing to finish your season like that," Creighton coach Dana Altman said. "We just weren't ready to play. That's not the best basketball we can play."
Korver completed his career with the Bluejays with a 99-32 record, the best four-year run in school history.