Rodgers’ Career-High 31 Not Enough as Men’s Basketball Falls to Salem State in OT

Chris Rodgers

WORCESTER – Sophomore Sean Bryan (Lowell, MA) and senior Shaquan Murray (Boston, MA) led Salem State with 18 points apiece, including the game-tying 3-pointer by Bryan to send the game into overtime, as the Vikings defeated host WPI, 96-91, in a non-conference men's basketball showdown Saturday in Harrington Auditorium. Engineer senior Chris Rodgers (Franklin, MA) poured in a career and game-high 31 points to go with eight rebounds, five assists and a steal.

Salem State, who came into the game riding momentum following wins over Tufts and Babson, improves to 7-2 as WPI closes out the term with a 5-4 ledger.

Trailing 79-76, Bryan launched a triple with 3.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Murray canned a three 34 seconds into the extra session for a lead the guests would not relinquish. Freshman Garrett Stephenson (Townsend, MA) cut the margin to one with a jumper 21 seconds later; however, SSU went on a 10-3 run for a 92-84 lead with 1:08 remaining. WPI outscored Salem State 7-4 the rest of the way for the 96-91 final.

The Engineers scored the first four points and 10 of the first 12 for an eight-point lead 3:25 into the game. The margin increased to 10 following a triple by freshman Jake Needleman (Morganville, NJ) at 11:58. Salem State featured three different scorers during a 6-0 run to get within four at 9:34. The Engineers couldn't get the lead above eight until a layup by Stephenson with 4:22 left in the opening half. The guests then went on a 10-run, featuring a hoop and a harm and a total of seven points by senior Drew Healy (Lowell, MA), to pull even with 1:36 on the scoreboard. Rodgers sent the Boynton Hillers to the cloakroom with a 38-36 lead with a layup at 1:22.

WPI pushed the lead out to 10 twice in the second half but it would be a single digit game the final 15-plus minutes. Murray eventually made it a 2-point game with 5:04 left in the half. Senior Rayshaw Matthews (Lowell, MA) cut it to one with 31 seconds on the scoreboard. Rogers crossed the 30-point watermark with a pair of freebies prior to Bryan's dagger.

In all, 10 student-athletes scored in double digits, including four of the five starters for each squad. In addition to Murray, junior Tyreik McCauley (Worcester, MA) added 16 and Matthews finished with 11. Bryan led the bench as senior Jacob Lindland (Hamilton, MA) contributed with 11. Healy went on to total nine as he, McCauley and Matthews combined for 24 of the teams 34 rebounds. Matthews amassed eight steals and Bryan also featured six assists on his stat line.

Freshman Dakota Wheeler (Easthampton, MA), three assists, and Needleman each scored 13 as Stephenson posted a dozen. Freshman Reid Walker (Lithia, FL) led all players with 12 rebounds to go with a trio of helpers.

WPI had advantages in rebounds (44-34), including 23-9 margin on the offensive end of the court, second chance points (22-14) and points in the paint (52-36). Salem State's bench accounted for 29 of the game's 44 points by the reserves as the team also had the edge in points off turnovers (21-18) and fast break points (6-2).

The Engineers head to Wooster, Ohio for the "Mose" Hole/Wooster Kiwanis Classic later this month. WPI and host Wooster meet at 7pm on the 29th and will face either Alma or Emory & Henry on the 30th. Salem State hosts Endicott Tuesday at 7pm.