NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Three players scored in double figures and Bentley University came up with 26 points off turnovers as the undefeated Falcons reached the 20-win plateau for the 28th time in the last 30 seasons with a 72-58 Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball victory over Merrimack College Wednesday night at Hammel Court.
It's the second time in the program's amazing history that the Falcons have won at least 20 to start the season (the 1991-92 team began 31-0), and coupled with Franklin Pierce University's 72-50 win over Stonehill College, gave the nation's second-ranked team in Division II a three-game lead in the NE-10 standings with six to play in its bid to three-peat as regular season champs.
Bentley senior guards Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) and Kelsey Roberson (Arlington/ Arlington Catholic HS) topped the scoring list with 16 and 15 points, respectively, and junior All-America forward Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) followed with 14, along with 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double.
Bentley took a 10-point lead into the break, 36-26, with Finn (11) and Roberson (10) combining for 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting for the Falcons.
Following five early lead changes, Bentley vaulted in front with its 20th run of at least 10 straight points this season. This one, a string of 11 unanswered, made it a 23-14 game with eight minutes left in the opening stanza.
A pair of baskets from junior forward Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS) launched the burst, and junior forward Tyler Parker Kimball (New Britain, Conn./New Britain HS) followed with a put-back. Sophomore guard Kelsey Mattice (Cicero, N.Y./Cicero North Syracuse HS) completed a fast-break lay-up, and Roberson banked in a three-ball from the left corner.
Twelve of Bentley's first half points were the result of 11 Merrimack turnovers, with Roberson coming up with three steals before the break.
A 14-2 run early in the second extended Bentley's lead to a game-high 21 with 14:03 left, 53-32. Mattice, with five, and Battista, with four, led that charge.
Merrimack (11-9, 7-9 NE-10) drew within 13 with six minutes to play, but a lay-up from Battista and two free throws from junior guard Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./Central HS) reversed the momentum , restoring the lead to 17 (65-48) with five minutes to play.
Finn earned her 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting with one three-pointer. Roberson matched her career-high, set back in 2010, and she also registered four steals and three assists in addition to connecting three times from downtown. Battista, in addition to 14 and 10, provided four steals and two blocks at the defensive end. She moved into 14th on Bentley's all-time scoring list, pushing her total to 1,319 while passing Bri Fecteau '01.
Sophomore guard Chloe Rothman (Newton) led the Warriors as she was perfect on three attempts from outside the arc and finished with 13 points.
Both teams made 26 baskets, with the Falcons shooting slightly better (46-41 percent), and Bentley had one more three (5-4) and one more rebound (38-37). The big difference came via turnovers (20 for Merrimack, only 12 for the Falcons) and at the foul line where four different Bentley players attempted more than the entire Warrior team.
Bentley finished 15 of 24 from the stripe while Merrimack was just two of three against a Falcon team that is second in the country in fewest fouls committed.
The Falcons will complete a string of three straight on the road Saturday when it plays a 1:30 game at Saint Anselm.