It was a senior trio that lead the men’s basketball team to a 61-59 win against Eastern Michigan Tuesday night on Senior Night.
Guards Kyle Randall and Finis Craddock along with forward Olivier Mbaigoto played key roles in their team’s second-straight win.
It was Randall leading the team with 23 points by knocking down six three-pointers, Mbaigoto hitting, what would be, the game winning shot and Craddock applying the defensive pressure to make sure that Mbaigoto’s bucket held up as the game winner.
“It took some big time efforts from guys on our team,” said head coach Keno Davis. “Guys who stood out to me: Kyle Randall continuing to step up and make big shots … (Mbaigoto) comes up and makes 14 points and six rebounds, we couldn’t have won without him … although (Craddock) didn’t score much; when we needed stops and we needed to put our best defender out there Finis was on the court.”
With 1:19 left in the game freshman guard Chris Fowler recorded his 10th assist when he found Mbaigoto who connected on a mid-range fadeaway jumper.
After a scramble for the ball, that ended up being called out-of-bounds off of freshman forward Blake Hibbitts, the Eagles brought the ball up and called timeout with 14.1 seconds left. On their final possession it was Craddock on the ball forcing them to pass the ball to Matt Balkema down low and he could not handle the pass it bounced out-of-bounds.
“I knew I wanted Finis on the ball and if they were going to force a long three I knew that was the guy I wanted on the ball,” Davis said. “I thought our guys did a good job being able to extend and then they got a ball screen and I thought we did a nice job on switching in the last four or five seconds to not give them an easy opportunity.”
The Chippewas made shooting look easy in the first half, shooting 50 percent from the field and from three-point range with Randall and Hibbitts combing for seven-of-14 three-pointers.
They went into the half with a 33-24 lead, but that quickly dwindled in the second half as EMU forced a few turnovers and started the half on a 6-0 run.
“We made some shots in the first half and I thought we had a little more penetration,” Davis said. “They came out with great energy (in the second half) in those first two or three minutes and we turned it over and all of sudden it was two point game instead of nine.”
Turnovers was a minimum overall on the night as Fowler continued to lead the offensive attack. Although he only scored six points tonight he had one turnover to 10 assists and he added in four rebounds.
It was the freshman’s control that led to seniors Randall and Mbaigoto’s big nights.
“(Fowler) has been able to be more of a playmaker for us so Kyle Randall hasn’t had to make a play every possession,” Davis said. “Chris can create shots for (Randall) … I think Fowler has improved as a player and, in turn, allowed Randall to get a little bit of rest.”
With the win, combined with a Miami (Ohio) loss against Akron, CMU moves up into the No. 9 seed in the tournament with one game left to play with a noon tipoff on Saturday at Western Michigan.
“There are better matchups for us in this league and team’s that we wouldn’t want to see, but I’m not going to let my team know who those are,” Davis said. “If I were to look at our team; I wouldn’t want to play us.”
As of now, the Chippewas will begin the Mid-American Conference Tournament on the road at Bowling Green, who they beat in the first MAC game of the season 73-67 at McGurik Arena. They made the trip to play the Falcons to start the MAC Tournament last season and won 54-53.