Johnson, Three-Point Shooting Help Pace Take Down #4 Bentley, 79-68

Lauren Battista
Lauren Battista

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – Senior guard Carol Johnson (New City, N.Y.) scored 26 points and her teammates combined to bury nine of 13 three-pointers as Pace University shot down conference-leading Bentley University, 79-68, in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball Saturday afternoon at the Goldstein Fitness Center.

Despite the loss, the nation's fourth-ranked Division II team maintained a one-game lead in the NE-10 as second-place and 15th-ranked Assumption was blasted by Southern New Hampshire.  Winless in its last three trips to Pace, Bentley slipped to 12-2 overall (with both losses coming in the Empire State) and 8-1 in the conference.

Pace, stunned by the Falcons in last year's regional final when Kim Brennan scored the game's final seven points for a three-point victory, improved to 10-3 overall. The Setters also moved to within a game of first in the conference at 7-2.

The sophomore post tandem of Lauren Battista (North Easton, Mass./Oliver Ames HS) and Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg, Mass./Wachusett Reg. HS) carried the offensive load for Bentley, combining for 47 of the team's 68 points. Battista finished with 24 points and five rebounds, and Brugliera provided 23 points and eight boards.

Bentley dug itself a hole it could never climb out of when it managed only three field goals during a span of 8:45 surrounding halftime.  Pace knocked down five threes during that stretch, the hot shooting enabling the Setters to go from down four to up 15, 55-40.          

Pace, after hitting 8 of 12 mid-range jumpers and threes during the opening 20 minutes, went into the halftime break up four, 39-35, despite a combined 23 points, six rebounds and three assists from Brugliera and Battista.  The Setters           closed the half with a 10-2 spurt and received 13 points from senior guard Carol Johnson (New City, N.Y.).

Brugliera had 10 of Bentley's first 15 points and finished the half with 14 points and four rebounds, all at the offensive end.  Battista filled the halftime stat sheet with nine points, two assists and a pair of rebounds.

Sophomore Allison Cleary (New Windsor, N.Y.), senior Kerri White (Flushing, N.Y.) and freshman Margo Hackett (Pawling, N.Y.) each connected from beyond the arc during the first six-plus minutes of the second half, helping Pace build the 15-point lead.

Two Brugliera free throws with seven minutes left brought Bentley to within seven, 62-55, but a Cleary triple restored the lead to double figures and the Falcons never got that close again.  Seven of ten free throws by Pace in the final three minutes and Johnson's ninth and final basket of the afternoon held the visitors off down the stretch.

Battista, who scored over 20 for the fifth straight game, was 9 of 16 from the field and six of seven from the line.  Brugliera's effort saw her make 8 of 14 shots and seven of eight free throws.  The rest of the Falcons managed only 21 points on 7-28 shooting, with juniors Caleigh Crowell (Harwich, Mass./Worcester Academy) and Courtney Finn (Winthrop, Mass./Winthrop HS) the only two of have more than three. Crowell chipped in with seven off the bench, and Finn scored six.

Johnson, 9 of 17 overall and eight of ten from the line, complemented her 26 points with five rebounds and four assists. Cleary followed with 16, senior post Brittany Shields (Cold Spring, N.Y.). just missed a double-double (13 points, nine rebounds), and White buried all four of her triples for 12 points.

Pace outshot the Falcons 48-41 percent and was a plus-six on the glass, 37-31. Bentley had only 10 turnovers, but couldn't offset the Setters' hot shooting from 12 feet and out.

Bentley will look to get back on track Wednesday when it visits American International for a 5:30 game.