Courtesy: Jason Kaufman/CMU Athletics
Kyle Randall's dribbles past two Niagara defenders Sunday afternoon in McGuirk Arena. Randall scored a career-high 24 points to help the Chippewas defeat the Purple Eagles, 66-64, and move to 4-3 on the year.
CMU Survives Another Close Call Against Niagara, 66-64
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich.Kyle Randall's 24 points and Central Michigan's clutch performance from the line was enough to edge the Chippewas past Niagara, 66-64, Sunday afternoon in McGuirk Arena.

The Chippewas (4-3) saw a double-digit lead slip away in the second half as the Purple Eagles (2-5) took their first lead of the game, 50-49, with 7:00 left and maintained it until the final 90 seconds of the game.

The Purple Eagles led by five, 58-53, with 4:47 remaining but a layup by Chris Fowler and Randall's second three-pointer of the game tied it at the 3:49 mark. That was the last field goal for the Chippewas, but they were able to win it at the line, going 8-for-10 in the final 3:01.

A pair of free throws by John Simons tied it back up at 60 apiece and steals on the other end of the court on back-to-back possessions kept the Purple Eagles from attempting a shot. Two more free throws by Fowler gave the Chippewas a two-point lead followed by another pair from Randall that stretched it to four, 64-60, with 27 seconds remaining.

The Chippewas jumped out to a 20-6 lead in the first nine minutes, hitting 7-of-13 from the floor while the Purple Eagles struggled through 2-of-14 shooting early. Randall recorded 12 of his team's first 23 points, perfect from the floor (4-4) and the line (3-3) during the stretch, and ended the half with 16 points to help the Chippewas to a 35-23 lead. They led by as many as 20 with 4:54 to go in the half but got stuck behind a 10-0 Niagara run over the next 4:24 that kept the Purple Eagles in the game.

Randall, who tallied a career-high for the second consecutive game, was one of three starters in double-figures, leading Simons with 12 and Fowler with 11. As a team the Chippewas went 8-for-8 from the line in the first half and 11-of-16 in the second for a 79.2 percent mark, attempting four fewer free throws than the Purple Eagles but making five more.

Three of Central's four wins now have come by four points or less.

The Chippewas hit the road for a two-game cross-country trip beginning Saturday at Charlotte. Central returns to Mount Pleasant for one more game before the New Year Dec. 20 against Texas State at 7 p.m.

Head Coach Keno Davis Postgame Quotes:
"There are a lot more veteran teams who have been in that situation to give up a big lead...and the momentum is gone and the game is over. For our young group to battle back and make enough plays down the stretch when nothing was going right for us, it says a lot about the character of the young men we have in this program."

"To have two guys like Chris Fowler and Kyle Randall be able to step up, it's nice for a coach to have two point guards like that because if we only had one of them we wouldn't be able to win these close games. Randall and Fowler have turned out to be two great leaders of this young ball club."

"We've found ways to win games. So often when you talk about young teams and teams trying to change the attitude of a program, it's about learning how to win. It's amazing to me how this group has learned how to win those close games already. We have not played our best basketball by far in these four wins. We might have played better in some of our losses than we did in some of our wins. But that gives us great optimism for the future."

 

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