Kyle Randall shines, establishes new McGuirk single-game scoring record in win over Bowling Green

Senior guard Kyle Randall scored 31 points and was perfect from the charity stripe on Wednesday night.

Kyle Randall brings the ball up the court against Bowling Green on Jan. 9 at McGuirk Arena. (Brittni Hengesbach | GCmag)

Stay strong. Stay tough. Stay focused.

Senior guard Kyle Randall  used those six words to describe what the Youngstown, Ohio native and his fellow Central Michigan teammates needed to do to earn a victory over Bowling Green. The strategy must have worked, as the Chippewas defeated the Falcons 73-67 on Wednesday at McGuirk Arena.

The 5’10 and 169-pound guard established a new McGuirk record with 31 points, making 13-out-of-13 free throws in the process.

“Late in games, they’re aren’t many shots that are usually made in college basketball late in games, it’s free throws,” Central head coach Keno Davis said. “It’s about being tough and getting to the line and when you got a guy that’s leading in the MAC in free throw percentage and a guy that can put it on the floor and they have to guard from the three point percentage, he’s our go to guy. And yet we understand that when he does that if somebody helps, he’s going to make the extra pass. He’s not an unselfish player. He’s going to look for the assist if that’s what’s wanted.”

Randall’s impressive night at the line was a result of working on his free throws with his teammates in free throw competitions. He said he takes a lot of pride in his free throws and every time he misses one, he gets a hard time for it. With how well Randall was shooting and nailing back-to-back free throws, Randall made it look pretty easy but he said it’s anything but.

“It’s definitely not easy,” Randall said. “Especially at the end of the game and no I haven’t always been this good. I think I’ve gone up every year but I started off as a 70 percent and I’ve just kind of been building up, a lot of free throws. Hundreds and thousands of free throws just staying in the gym and I’m glad it’s finally paying off now. I’m in a good situation so I’m happy about that.”

Randall’s effort, while impressive, didn’t result in a blowout.

As minutes ticked away in the second half, Central’s lead evaporated and with three minutes and 20 seconds left on the clock the game was tied. One couldn’t help but feel the tension in the final moments and was clearly visible as some fans could be seen holding their hands behind their necks, as they watched the momentum of the game shift to Bowling Green.

“There’s a lot of veteran teams out there that when they give up a lead like that, you just know you’re watching the game and you know that it’s over,” Davis said. “The momentum has shifted and we’ve been through it two or three times we’ve given up leads and we come up in the stretch and we make enough plays.”

Despite the shift in momentum, Randall and his teammates didn’t lose faith. They made important hustle plays in the waning moments, diving to the ground for loose balls the second it slipped out of someone’s grasp and Randall was the most crucial player on the floor down the stretch, doing everything in his power to help lead his team to the win.

“I think Kyle’s experience, his toughness, his ability to do everything,” Davis said of Randall’s impact on the team,” Davis said. “He looked pretty tired out there, but I gave him a couple of 10, 15 seconds to rest. I even used a timeout to get him back on the court because of how important he is.”

En route to establishing a new record with his 31 points, Randall was eight-of-11 on his field goal attempts and made two-out-of -four of his three-point attempts.

“I just wanted to come out and do whatever my team needed,” Randall said. “I wasn’t going out there trying to score 31 points. It’s just fortunate it happened that way but most importantly, we got the win and that’s all I’m worried about. It’s a team effort and especially on the defensive end. We played better defense and we talked more than we have all season long, so that’s one thing I’m proud of our guys for.”

Working together as a team, Central fought for the win giving the students a chance to celebration. And while many may have been surprised by Central’s win over Bowling Green, Randall was not. He said the team works hard and believes they are capable of achieving a lot more.

“I definitely expected it,” Randall said. “Us coming in as a team, as a coach and staff, we definitely gave ourselves a lot of credit, if you want to call it that. We believed in ourselves and that was the big thing. And if it didn’t come from anywhere else, it’s definitely gone come from us and inside our locker room. So we definitely had big expectations for our team this year and it’s paying off. All the hard work we did over the summer, the preseason, and in practice now is paying off. So we’re glad about that.”

Those low expectations prompted a question about how Davis felt about earning his first conference win. Davis took it in stride, smiled and said, “I’m glad I got one.” He went onto say that while Central was picked pretty much unanimously to finish last in the conference this season, he wouldn’t let the opinions of others take him or his team down.

“You got to make sure that as a staff and as a team you don’t let expectations and you don’t let public perception drag you down and you live down to those expectations,” Davis said. “Like Kyle said, there’s a strong belief in our locker room that we can be successful and we can win every night we step on the court. We’re not going to win every night but every night we step on there, we understand if we play well, we’re going to have a chance to win that game and that’s something we didn’t know several months ago.”

Central is now 8-6 (1-0 MAC) and will travel to Toledo on Saturday to take on the Rockets. Following its one-game road trip, Central will return to McGuirk Arena on Saturday, Jan. 19 to play Ball State.