Men’s Basketball Struggles Early

The team huddles during the game against CC rival Johns Hopkins, Photo Courtesy of Muhlenberg College Athletics.

The men have had a rough start to the 2017-18 basketball season, but are looking to turn things around entering further conference play. Following a win in their home opener over SUNY New Paltz, the Mules have suffered a five game losing streak. This included a tough, five-point loss in the Scotty Wood Weekend Tournament Championship game, and three in-conference losses.

In the win over New Paltz, Matt Gnias ‘20 dropped a career-high sixteen points and nine assists, and four other players reached double digits in scoring on the night. The first career win for new head coach Kevin Hopkins was an exciting one, as the boys closed out SUNY down the stretch with lockdown defense and timely buckets.

The title game of the tournament against Misericordia was one of the most electrifying in Scotty Wood Weekend history. Facing a 23 point first half deficit, the Mules battled back in the second half, chipping away at the lead bit by bit until they found themselves down by three in the final minutes. With two minutes to go, the team missed the potential game tying three pointer, and down just one with 30 seconds left, still couldn’t find a way to tie the game. The Cougars iced the game with free throws in the closing seconds, ending the valiant comeback effort from the Mules at a score of 104-99.

The 203 combined points were the most ever in a Scotty Wood title game. Gnias and JeanLee Baez ‘18 were named to the all-tournament team. Gnias recorded his first career double-double with career highs of 25 points and 10 assists in the final game and his 19 total assists also set a tournament record. Baez scored in double figures for the second straight game with 15 points, shooting 76 percent from the field in the tournament.

Since the nail-biting loss at Scotty Wood, the boys haven’t found the same success on the offensive end. During the tournament, the Mules reached at least 90 points in back to back games. In the four matchups since then, they have scored over  70 only once and have lost all four of those games. Three of those four losses also came in Centennial Conference play. After getting blown out 89-69 in their conference opener against Dickinson, the team dropped yet another close game at home in a two-point loss to King’s College. The Mules had a seven-point lead at halftime, but were outscored down the stretch and missed a desperation three-point attempt at the buzzer, losing the game 74-72.

Two days later, they travelled to Swarthmore and after a first half deficit of 39-14, the team shot the lights out in the second half.  After making only one three point attempt in the first half the Mules shot 54 percent from the field, with 12 threes. Michael Morreale ‘21 filled up the stat sheet with 16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and two blocks.

On Dec. 2, the team dropped their most recent game to Johns Hopkins, 66-55.  Once again, the squad dug itself into a large first half deficit, down 13 at the break. While they cut what was at one point a 17-point lead down to six by holding the Blue Jays to under 30 percent shooting in the second half, the Mules went scoreless in the final three minutes.

“Obviously this isn’t the start we wanted, but we have a bunch of guys who are playing really well and contributing on both ends of the floor. We’ve also been playing with a lot of effort, and lost a couple close games. Once we start stringing some wins together I think we’ll be fine,” said Ryan Gaynor ‘20.

With a 1-6 record, and still winless in conference play, the Mules will be looking to turn things around fast. Coach Hopkins has shifted the lineup and minutes around a lot in the first handful of games, likely in an attempt to nail down who he can come to depend on consistently as his first season progresses.


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