BUFFALO, N.Y. - It ended up a season of near misses. For the second game in a row a last-second three by senior Kyle Randall just missed and the Central Michigan basketball program saw its season come to an end Monday night in the opening round of the FirstEnergy Mid-American Conference Tournament – in overtime nonetheless – on the road at Buffalo, 74-72.
Randall scored just three points in the first half, but put the team on his back in the second half and overtime period, scoring 28 of his game-high 31 points. The second-team All-MAC selection and conference's leading scorer tied the game with a 28-footer with 21 seconds left to force overtime.
The Chippewas (11-19) had a pair of chances to win it under 10 seconds in the extra session including a three by Blake Hibbits from the corner with seven seconds left with CMU down, 73-72.
After the Bulls' (13-19) Tony Watson split a pair at the free throw line, the Chippewas were able to move the ball to halfcourt where they called a timeout with 2.2 seconds left to set up the final play.
Sophomore Austin Keel was able to inbound the ball to Randall near the sideline and Randall had a look from the left wing over two defenders, but his shot was just a bit strong as the buzzer sounded.
The Maroon and Gold came out firing as freshman John Simons hit a pair of threes in the first 5:45 to give them a 12-6 lead. CMU was able to push its advantage to as many as eight in the first half, 15-9, after a three by senior Olivier Mbaigoto, but the Bulls came storming back.
A 10-2 run by UB capped with a layup by Javon McCrea gave the Bulls a 21-19 lead with 6:04 to play in the first half and they were able to push it to four at halftime, 30-26.
Randall went to work right out of the gate in the second half, scoring six of eight points during a run that allowed CMU to reclaim the lead with 16:17 to play, 36-34. Sophomore Chris Fowler found Randall for one of his game-high nine assists with 5:15 to go to give the Chippewas a 56-54 lead, but the Bulls responded with an 8-0 run to take control, 63-56.
Randall refused to let his season end without a fight however as he scored the final eight points of regulation for the Chippewas, including the three with 21 seconds that sent the game to overtime.
"I'm grateful to God for blessing me to have a great season," said Randall. "Coming into it I never thought it would be like this. I wish we could still be playing on Wednesday but everything happens for a reason. I am honored that I got the chance to play here. I'm a proud Chippewa, a Chippewa forever."
"Kyle is still improving," said head coach Keno Davis. "As a senior who is getting better every day, that shows what kind of character he has.
"I don't know how good we'll be right away but when we get there, and I believe we will, we will not forget about the seniors from this year. They worked hard, they got after it, and they helped us win games. We want to make sure they all stay close to the program."