Following Central Michigan's 66-64 win over Niagara on Sunday, the Chippewas improved to 4-3 overall and earned a much needed win before heading on the road. Head coach Keno Davis and senior point guard Kyle Randall spoke to the media after the game, and you can read their responses below.
Head Coach Keno Davis
"I think I would like to start off saying that I'm very proud of our team today. Not so much from getting a win, but I told them a lot more veteran teams in that situation that give up a big lead, going up 20, and then going down about five or six; and the momentum is gone and the game is over. For our young group to be able to battle back and make some plays, I thought it was good for us. We have some defensive things to work on; offensively when things weren't going right, it shows that we have the right kind of guys in this program and I'm excited for what the future will bring."
On Kyle Randall and his performance
"I can't talk enough about Kyle Randall. When we talked and were fortunate to be here at Central Michigan, at a place where we had no point guards on the roster, and to be able to find a Kyle Randall, a guy who graduated in three years, and a Chris Fowler. To have two guys like that to step up and play like that, it's good for a coach to have two point guards. If we didn't have both of them, we would not win many games. We are very appreciative of Kyle [Randall] and what he brings to us. [Randall] and Chris Fowler have become two very good leaders of this ball club."
On Kyle Randall's scoring ability without having post players
"Yeah, we have a lack of post members because we don't have any post players. Zach Saylor is our only post player. Without [Saylor] playing tonight, we had Olivier Mbaigoto in there. [Mbaigoto] really isn't a post player, he's a step out big man. We realized we had to be a guard-oriented team tonight. We had to make sure we penetrated and get to the free throw line. That was a huge key for us. How many times can we get to the line? And how many free throws can we make? Then when you look at the stat sheet at the end, you don't have to look much closer: They shot four more than us [14-28], and we made five more than them [19-24]. We are going to be a good free throw shooting team. It may take awhile for the stats to show based on our first few games, but I believe in our guys on the line. When they learn how to get to the line more, and we can rely on them on nights where we don't play very well, the free throw equalizer will be a key for us this year."
On making clutch free throws at the end (8-9)
"I think that a couple things I can say about that, is that we find ways to win games. When you talk about young teams and teams that are trying to win games, and changing the attitude of a program, it's about learning how to win. It's amazing to me that this young group has learned how to win those games already. We have not played our best basketball, by far, in our four wins. We might've played better in some of our losses than our wins. I think that gives us great optimism for the future, when we're not playing our, best but we find a way to win."
On Zach Saylor's return date
"There's really no timetable. I think he is taking it day-to-day as far as being able to examine him and work with him. We hope for the best, that he will be with us sooner rather than later. He's a guy who hasn't been able to practice with us, and he has been a leader for us. He has been a leader for us without even playing. You put Zach Saylor with Kyle Randall, we needed that experience. We needed the young guys to be able to mesh well together. He's a guy that we've needed to have success this year."
On playing without Zach Saylor
"I think it hurts when you take out your only center, and not having him in there able to defensively rebound. You're going to have him in there to rebound, partly because he is big. We don't want to use that as an excuse for our team. I'll be the first one to tell you, we're not happy with our rebounding tonight. Niagara gets 15 offensive rebounds, we get six. It's a great opportunity to say that's where we need to improve. That's an improvement area and yet, we still won the game. Our leading rebounder tonight gets four. If you were to tell me before the game that our leading rebounder would get four, and we would've won the game, I wouldn't have believed it. I think if we have some guys step up and get some big numbers [in rebounds] and some guys who have some low numbers [in rebounds], be able to figure it out, we'll be more successful as a team."
On how Niagara was able to get back into the game
"I think they switched into a switching-zone defense against us that we were not able to solve. They also trapped the pass into the corner that we didn't see in their tape. That's one thing that you run into early in the season. For us, we've probably ran a different defense every game. When we threw the ball into the corner and they kept trapping, we weren't ready for that. That's something that we will work on in the practice courts, so when we see it again, we'll be ready for it. I give them credit, they did things that disrupted us. They were going to run defensively in the second half, and also on how they were going to attack us. We also switched things up defensively the last few minutes and I think that caused them to be off-balance."
Fearful of playing without Zach Saylor?
"I'm fearful of everyone on this team not playing. I'm not even joking. We're a deep team, we need them all. We need Luke Weist to come off the bench to make a shot. We need guys coming off the bench making stops, we need the depth of our team. When we don't have DeAndray Buckley and Zach Saylor, those are two guys that would've brought a team more experience. On the bright side, it's giving our young guys a chance to step into those roles and they will become better for it."
Senior guard Kyle Randall
Did you expect to provide the scoring in the final minutes for this team?
"I thought that I would come in and do whatever Coach [Keno] Davis would tell me to do. He told me when he was recruiting me, that coming in with all of the experience that I had, he was going to need me to do a lot of things. Being able to lead and score, I expected to just do whatever I needed to do for the team to win a game."
On making clutch free throws in the game
"It's something that we work on in practice. We shoot free throws everyday during practice and finish up with free throws. It's something that we take pride in; we have good shooters and it's something we should be able to do. I take pride in it personally as well."
On talking to the young guys when things go bad
"You just tell them there is a lot of time left. There's 20 minutes in a college basketball game and that's like an eternity. Keep their heads up, keep fighting until that last buzzer sounds."
On having a career day (24 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) leading the team in all categories
"I was just doing whatever I needed to do to let the team win. Early on, I was just letting the game come to me. In the first half, there were a lot of open lanes, and fortunately I was able to make some layups. Second half, everyone got involved. It was a big team win today and we're glad that everyone contributed.
On the team scoring more points in this system
"I think we can score more points with the shooters that we have, but as long as we're winning, I don't think it's that big of a deal."
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