DANBURY, CT – Despite a game-high 24 points and four assists from junior guard Tyler Rowe (East Hartford, CT), the Western Connecticut State University men's basketball team suffered an 81-69 non-conference loss to visiting Muhlenberg College on Wednesday night. For the second consecutive contest, the Colonials held a late advantage. However, the visiting squad put together another late rally to stun the hosts.
Junior forward Rashard Rodriguez (Trumbull, CT) chipped in with 18 points, while classmate Aaron Samuel (Stratford, CT) and sophomore Fenton Bradley Jr. (Mansfield, CT) added 10 points apiece for the Colonials.
Four players also notched double figures for the Mules. Sophomore Matt Gnias (Royersford, PA) paced the visitors with 18 points, while junior Brendan Hughes (Madison, CT) contributed 14. Rookie Michael Morreale (Montville, NJ) and senior JeanLee Baez (Allentown, PA) each netted 10.
It was a controlled game with few turnovers. Muhlenberg moved the ball well, finishing with 18 assists compared to the Colonials' five. The visitors also held an edge in the rebounding column, 46-37, while canning 12 three-pointers as WestConn buried just five from beyond the arc.
The Colonials scurried out to an early 9-2 lead as Bradley Jr. finished off the spurt with a theft and a thunderous breakaway dunk. The Mules countered with a run of their own to seize a 13-11 advantage midway through the first half.
Muhlenberg stretched the gap to 26-19 before the Colonials put together a late opening half flurry, deadlocking the count at 32-32 at the break.
Hughes would can a trifecta, giving the Mules a 46-40 lead less than five minutes in the second stanza. However, the Colonials would string together yet another spurt, capturing a 48-46 lead when Rashard Rodriguez connected from beyond the arc. He would sink another trifecta, extending the margin to 60-55 with 8:36 remaining on the clock.
The Mules responded with a 26-9 outburst to seal the victory. Gnias ignited the comeback with back-to-back three-pointers, while also rounding out the barrage with the game's final four points by way of the free throw line.
"We're playing in spurts now and struggling. We need to find a way to minimize our lapses as we prepare for Saturday's league game," said Colonial head coach Jason Harlow following his squad's third straight defeat.
With the loss, WestConn dropped to 5-6 overall, while Muhlenberg improved to 3-7. The Colonials return to action for a Little East Conference matchup against visiting Plymouth State on Saturday at 3 p.m.