COLCHESTER, Vt. – Bentley University senior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) scored 23 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, but St, Michael's College escaped with the win, 66-64, on a tip-in by senior forward Tyler Schilling (Excelsior, Minn.) with eight seconds left in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball action at the Ross Sports Center Wednesday night.
Bentley, which has dropped two in a row for the first time since last February, fell to 15-7 overall and 11-7 in the NE-10. St. Michael's completed a season series sweep of the Falcons, improving to 8-14 overall and 7-11 conference.
After both teams overcame second-half deficits (Bentley was down nine early, the Purple Knights trailed by seven with eight minutes on the clock), the game came down to the final possession for both teams after Leclerc sank a pair of free throws with 27.2 seconds left to make it a 64-all game.
When it appeared St. Michael's would hold the ball for the last shot, freshman Corey Crawford (Dover, Del.) took a 14-foot jumper with about 10 seconds on the clock. It was off the mark, but Schilling was able to tip it in to give the lead back to his team.
Bentley, which had eight seconds to work with, got the ball to its hot hand, but Leclerc's potential game-tying 15-footer at the buzzer wouldn't fall, resulting in the Falcons' third two-point loss of the season.
The Falcons' difficulties in scoring down the stretch of each half proved costly. Bentley was scoreless during the final five minutes of the opening stanza, with the Purple Knights netting the final nine points to take a 33-26 lead into the break. In the second, the visitors managed only two field goals and six points in the final eight minutes while getting outscored by nine.
Leclerc was on fire during the first six minutes of the second half, scoring 14 points during that time to help Bentley turn a 35-26 deficit into a 46-41 lead. Included was a four-point play to even the score at 41 and another three-ball that put his team up 44-41.
Bentley maintained a lead between two and five until a pair of free throws from senior forward Kevin Kettl (Hershey, Pa./Hershey HS) with 8:16 gave the Falcons their biggest lead, 58-51.
Less than two minutes later, that lead was gone as the Purple Knights used a basket from sophomore guard Michael Holton, Jr., a tip-in from freshman forward Mike Thompson (Rosewood, N.Y.) and a three from junior Travis Warech (Pine Brook, N.J.) to even things at 58 apiece.
After a three-pointer by Falcon sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn, Mass./Lynn Classical HS) broke a 59-59 tie, Holton scored the game's next five points to put his team up 64-62 with 58.8 seconds. Fortunately for Bentley, the 87 percent foul shooter missed two of three from the line during that stretch.
Leclerc's two free throws with 27.2 seconds on the clock produced the game's tenth tie and proved to be the Falcons' final points of the night.
Leclerc, who had averaged 22 points in his last three games, finished 7-of-12 from the floor with four three-pointers in seven attempts. He also made 10 of 13 free throws and grabbed six rebounds in his 35 minutes on the floor.
Grassa, with 16 points, and Kettle, with 11, were the only other Falcons with more than seven points. Grassa knocked down four from outside the arc, and Kettl grabbed 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
Holton powered St. Michael's with 24 points despite missing five of six three-pointers. He was seven of nine inside the arc and seven of ten from the line.
Bentley was outshot 45-38 percent but finished with a slight edge in both threes (8-6) and free throws (14-12). Neither team shot well from the charity stripe with both missing eight, and the Falcons had the edge in turnovers, committing two less (11-13). The rebound edge belonged to St. Michael's, 37-32, including a costly offensive rebound in the waning seconds.
Bentley, now alone in fifth place (two games back of co-leaders Adelphi and Franklin Pierce), will return to action Saturday at Southern New Hampshire.