RINDGE, N.H. –Senior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) sank five three-pointers en route to a career-high 24 points and junior forward Dan O'Keefe (Lexington, Mass./Lexington HS) provided 15 points and nine rebounds as Bentley University snapped Franklin Pierce University's six-game winning streak, 70-60, in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball at the FPU Fieldhouse Wednesday night.
The outcome left both teams a game out of first in the NE-10 with Bentley improving to 7-2 overall and 4-2 conference and the Ravens falling to 8-2 and 4-2.
Three-point shooting played a key role in the victory with Bentley connecting on 12 of 25 from outside the arc and Pierce sinking only 5 of 22. Leclerc finished five of nine on three-balls, four of the makes coming during a 17-point second half, and O'Keefe canned three triples in as many attempts during the opening half.
After Franklin Pierce took its final lead of the night, 51-50 with 7:39 left, it was a Leclerc trey 16 seconds later that returned the lead to the Falcons, the 15th lead change of the game.
The turning point in the game may have come with about six minutes left when a long jumper by FPU sophomore forward Ellis Cooper (Northampton, Mass.) went in-and-out of the basket, with the rebound going to Falcon sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn, Mass./Lynn Classical HS). That possession led to a driving lay-up that turned into the second three-point play of the night for by junior guard Greg Jacques (Brockton, Mass./Brockton HS).
As a result of that swing, rather than being in a tie game, the Falcons were up five with 5:17 left. Following a pair of FPU free throws, Leclerc dropped in a three-ball from the left wing for a six-point advantage with 4:55 remaining.
Cooper missed two free throws with 4:01 on the clock that would have cut the deficit to two, and again Leclerc made it hurt. He threw it in from about 23 feet to beat the shot clock and push the Bentley lead to seven, 62-55.
Bentley put the game away with a late 8-1 spurt that included six by O'Keefe and resulted in the biggest lead of the night,70-58 with 10.9 seconds left.
Seven of Bentley's threes came during a back-and-forth first half that ended with the Falcons up six, 33-27. The Falcons picked up the first point of the second before the Ravens came storming back with eight in a row. That flurry featured three-balls from Cooper and freshman forward Ryen Vilmont (Philadelphia, Pa.).
A 9-4 run by Bentley, including a four-point play from Leclerc, restored the Falcon lead to five, 48-43, but the Ravens countered with an 8-2 spurt to grab the short-lived 51-50 lead.
In addition to three-point shooting, a rebounding dominance contributed to the Bentley victory. With four players grabbing at least five, the Falcons finished with a 43-31 advantage on the glass and a 14-7 edge in second-chance points. Grassa set a career high with 10 boards, O'Keefe had nine, senior forward Kevin Kettl (Hershey, Pa./Hershey GS) claimed six and Leclerc matched his three-point count with five.
Cooper posted a double-double for Franklin Pierce as he led his team with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Falcons had the edge across the board in shooting, a factor Franklin Pierce offset by committing only seven turnovers, 10 fewer than Bentley. Bentley outshot FPU 41-37 percent overall and made seven more free throws (16-9) in eight more attempts (23-15).
Bentley closes out the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule Saturday afternoon at NE-10 co-leader Stonehill College (3:30 pm).