Men’s basketball was in danger of losing its Mid-American Conference opener Wednesday night after blowing a 23-point lead in the second half.
But, senior guard Kyle Randall’s record-breaking night helped save the Chippewas win by scoring a McGuirk Arena-record 31 points and knocking down all 13 of his free-throw attempts, making him a 92 percent from the line for the season.
“I think Kyle’s experience, his toughness, his ability to do everything … he’s our go-to guy,” said head coach Keno Davis. “He’s not an unselfish player; he’s going to look for the assist if that’s what’s warranted.”
Despite setting an arena scoring record, Randall led CMU with three assists, showcasing his unselfishness. He also showed his toughness by leading the team in rebounds with six on the night.
But, what makes Randall so vital to this team is his experience.
Randall is one of the three seniors on the Chippewas’ roster. The other two being forward Zach Saylor, who has been out since November with a knee injury, and forward Olivier Mbaigoto, who is in just his second year at CMU after transferring from St. Petersburg College.
Randall, however, is a transfer senior from UNC-Greensboro of the Southern Conference and was a part of the Spartans 2011-2012 conference championship team.
He played in 93 games for UNCG, where he averaged 8.2 points per game and was 77 percent from the free-throw line.
Now he’s leading the Chippewas to an 8-6 record with 16.6 points per game and his MAC-leading free-throw percentage.
“With so many young players, to have somebody with veteran leadership and with the talent of Kyle, we wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Davis said.
This wasn’t the first time CMU has given up a significant lead, only to hold on to the win.
The Chippewas had an early 14-point lead against Niagara on Dec. 2 and lost the lead to the Purple Eagles late in the second half.
But, it was Randall once again, leading the team with 24 points shooting eight-of-nine from the line to take back the lead and secure the win.
“You didn’t see the same looks on the young guys faces (against Bowling Green) as we did against Niagara,” Randall said. “We just reminded each other to stay strong, stay tough and stay focused.”
CMU has been the surprise story of the MAC so far this season.
After being picked last to start the year, the Chippewas are 8-6 and now begins conference play with a 1-0 record, but, as much as it’s a surprise to everyone outside the CMU locker room, it isn’t on the inside.
“I definitely expected it,” Randall said. “We believed in ourselves, and that’s the big thing, and if it didn’t come from anyone else, it came from us.”
But, that has changed; fans, students and alumni alike believe in this team, and a lot of that falls on Randall’s shoulders.
“Like Randall said,we have a great belief in our ability,” Davis said. “When Kyle Randall can get to the line, that’s great; but, when the other team needs to foul late and we have all mid-70-percent shooters, that allows us to win games.”