BROOKVILLE, N.Y. – Freshman forward Jen Gemma (Milton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy) established new career-bests with 20 points and 12 rebounds, accomplishing those impressive numbers in just 17 minutes off the bench, as Bentley University, the number one-ranked team in the USA TODAY Sports/ WBCA Division II poll, improved to 11-0 with a 71-59 win over LIU Post in non-conference women's basketball Saturday afternoon at the Pratt Recreation Center.
Bentley vaulted out to a 35-18 halftime lead, led by as many as 21 four times in the second half and withstood a late Pioneer charge to record its 55th win in its last 58 games. It also moved coach Barbara Stevens to within seven wins of the 900-victory milestone.
The Falcons, whose only deficit came at 4-2, used a run of nine unanswered points to take its first double-digit lead of the afternoon at 23-13. Gemma accounted for the first six and senior All-Conference forward Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg, Mass./Wachusett Reg. HS) converted a three-point play to make it a 10-point spread.
Late in the first half, Bentley scored eight straight to make it 33-16 advantage. Grad student Courtney Finn (Winthrop, Mass./Winthrop HS) made a lay-up, classmate Chrystal Guarin (Aliso Viejo, Calif./Troy HS) and senior All-America forward Lauren Battista (North Easton, Mass./Oliver Ames HS) each buried a pair of free throws, and senior forward Tyler Parker Kimball (New Britain, Conn./New Britain HS) capped the run with an inside basket.
Bentley's lead hit 21 for the first time, 49-28 with 12:43 left, following eight Gemma points in a span of less than three minutes.
The Pioneers, who had knocked Bentley from the unbeaten ranks two years ago in the Falcons' only previous visit to the Pratt Center, had a chance to reduce the lead to single numbers in the final two minutes. However, a three-pointer was off the mark, Finn claimed the rebound and Brugliera followed with a fast-break lay-up off a Guarin assist, making it a 14-point spread with about a minute-and-a-half to play.
Gemma, whose previous bests were 12 points and 11 rebounds, made nine of 14 shots overall with half of her dozen rebounds coming at the offensive end.
Brugliera also had a double-double for the Falcons, finishing with 16 points and ten rebounds. Battista added nine points, senior point guard Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./Central HS) contributed with eight points and four assists, and Finn recorded seven points and eight rebounds.
Guarin also had a solid effort off the bench on a day that saw the Falcon reserves outscore the LIU Post non-starters 31-5. She only scored five, but gave her team six assists, four steals and three rebounds.
Gemma wasn't the only Fontbonne Academy product to lead her team in scoring as LIU Post senior guard Alexis Peters (Dorchester, Mass.) tallied a game-high 24 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
Bentley, held without a three-point basket, shot 44 percent overall and limited the home team to 34 percent, including just 27 percent in the opening half. The Falcons were a plus-17 on the glass, 49-32, and had 20 fast break points while allowing only four.
Bentley will be back at home Jan. 3, taking on the University of Bridgeport in a non-conference game.