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.