WALTHAM, Mass. – After suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in a year, the Bentley University men's basketball team will make its third attempt at win number 16 Saturday afternoon when the Falcons visit Southern New Hampshire University. Tip-off at the SNHU Gymnasium is scheduled for 3:30 pm.
It's been a season of close games for the Falcons, who will go into Saturday's game in fifth place in the Northeast-10 at 15-7 overall and 11-7 in the conference. They trail co-leaders Adelphi and Franklin Pierce by two games and Stonehill and UMass-Lowell, who are tied for third, by one game. Bentley controls its own destiny in terms of playoff seeding as they'll see each of those teams, with the exception of Adelphi, during the season's final three regular season games.
Twelve of Bentley's last 20 games, including the last five, have been decided by six or less, or in overtime, with coach Jay Lawson's club 8-4 in those contests. Three of those four losses have been two-point games, including Wednesday's 66-64 blemish at St. Michael's.
Guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) has been having a strong senior season for the Falcons. He's the only NE-10 player in the top ten in both three-pointers (62, 4th) and free throws (86, 3rd), and is amongst the most accurate in both of those categories as well. Leclerc has made 47 percent of his shots from downtown, the third best accuracy mark in Bentley history, and is at .835 from the line.
As the result of those numbers, Leclerc sits atop the Falcon scoring list at 15.6 points per game (seventh in the NE-10). And despite being only six-foot-one, he ranks fifth in the conference in defensive rebounding.
Leclerc is followed on the scoring list by sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS), one of only three NE-10 players who has connected from three-point land more often than Leclerc. Grassa, a 41 percent shooter from outside, has drained 67 triples and is currently averaging 14.4 points.
Freshman forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy) owns the third best scoring average amongst non-starters in the conference (11.0), and is also the NE-10's third most productive freshman at the offensive end. He's buried 51 three-pointers with his .451 accuracy mark sixth best.
Southern New Hampshire, like Bentley, will also be looking to get back on the winning track Saturday. The Penmen have dropped four in a row, all by double figures, and are currently 11-12 overall and 7-11 in the conference. The recent slide has resulted in SNHU currently a game out of the final playoff spot.
SNHU has a balanced offensive attack with four players averaging between 10.1 points and 11.6 rebounds. That list is headed by six-foot-four senior Tory Stapleton, who gives the Penmen 11.6 points a game and also leads the club in rebounds (6.8 per game).
Six-foot-six Elijah Bonsignore and six-foot-five Aleksandar Dobrovic have been two of the conference's top freshmen. Bonsignore (10.7 ppg) is second in the NE-10 in blocks with 45, and Dobrovic (10.1 ppg) has been as close to a constant in coach Stan Spirou's lineup as there as been, with 22 starts in 23 games.
Defense has been an issue for the Penmen with the opponents shooting 45 percent overall and 38 percent from three while averaging nearly 19 free throws a game.
Bentley took the first meeting of the season between the two programs, 92-76, with Grassa going off for 27 points. He was seven of nine from downtown, and his teammates were also hot from three, making eight of 17.
Bentley's final two home games of the regular season are next week, Tuesday against Franklin Pierce and a week from Saturday against Stonehill.