The men’s basketball team delivered a group effort to beat Ball State 71-57 and halt a two-game losing streak Saturday at McGuirk Arena.
Senior guard Kyle Randall led Central Michigan in points, with 16, but he had the help of his teammates, with five scoring at least seven points.
“A lot of publicity, and rightfully so, has gone to Kyle Randall as being the leader of this team,” said head coach Keno Davis. “But I think you can look down the roster tonight and make a case of four or five guys being our best player tonight or leading us to victory or being the most valuable player.”
Randall, the team’s leading scorer, carried even more weight in his first three conference games than he had earlier in the season, averaging 22.7 points.
“Nobody really has to have a big night if everyone plays like that,” Randall said. “The team stepped up and made some big shots and that’s just the value of having guys like that on our team.”
The score was 37-35, Cardinals, at halftime. After spotting BSU four more points at the start of the second half, the Chippewas awoke and were off and running.
Freshman guard Derrick Richardson Jr. put an exclamation on a 13-2 run by delivering a two-handed slam that gave CMU a 48-43 lead, 8:32 into the second half.
The fatigued Cardinals managed 20 points in the second half, after having no trouble scoring in the first half.
“I think it’s what we did in the first half, we ran so much, we gave them pressure, and we ran offensively,” Davis said. “I think it took its toll.”
The Chippewas extended the margin to eight points, which was the biggest lead of the game at the point, with 5:42 left, and they were not threatened thereafter.
Senior guard Finis Craddock, with playing time increasing as the season has gone on, grabbed an offensive rebound on the weak side and senior forward Olivier Mbaigoto was the one who capitalized, scoring his fourth point of the last two possessions and giving CMU the 57-49 lead.
Mbaigoto had 12 points and six rebounds for the game.
“The nights (Mbaigoto) hasn’t played well, it’s just he hasn’t been healthy enough to play well,” Davis said. “He’s playing out of position, but he won’t say a word. He’s just does anything the team needs, and he’s tough matchup for them to guard because of his quickness.”
Freshman forward Blake Hibbitts also had 12 points, making four of nine three-pointers with one coming in the run that gave CMU the lead for good at the beginning of the second half.
Senior center Zach Saylor returned to action. He played for four minutes and had one rebound.
“His timing is not there,” Davis said. “But we got his feet wet, and I think it was a good change of pace for us to have a bigger body in there.”
CMU looks to move above .500 in the Mid-American Conference 7 p.m. Wednesday at McGuirk Arena against North Illinois, which has the worst overall record in the MAC at 3-13.
The Chippewas are in a logjam for first place in the MAC West with Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Toledo.
“I’m not sure how good of a ball club we are, and I’m not sure how good we can become,” Davis said. “There’s no pressure on us … after the game we’re going to be disappointed if we lose, but we’re going to be more disappointed if we didn’t out work the other team.”