WALTHAM, Mass. – One of the strengths of this year's Bentley University men's basketball team has been its ability to quickly get back on the winning track following a loss. A Falcon victory in the ensuing game has followed each of the team's first five losses.
Coach Jay Lawson's team will again be looking to avoid dropping back-to-back games when it makes the trek to Colchester, Vt. to take on St. Michael's College Wednesday night (7:30 pm). In addition, the Falcons will be looking to avenge an earlier loss to the Purple Knights (67-59 back on Nov. 30 at the Dana Center).
Saturday's loss to Saint Anselm dropped the Falcons into a tie for fourth in the Northeast-10, two games back of first-place Adelphi University, and to 15-6 overall. St. Michael's, on the other hand, needs to make up two games over the final five conference games in order to have a shot at qualifying for the NE-10 playoffs. The Purple Knights have dropped six in a row to fall to 6-11 conference and 7-14 overall.
In the previous games following losses, Bentley has shot much better than their season norm, 46 percent overall and 42 percent from three, while attempting 10 more free throws a game and having a +2.2 rebound margin.
Those numbers are in sharp contrast to the first meeting with St. Michael's when Bentley had one of its poorest shooting nights of the year. The Falcons were held to 35 percent overall (including 11-37 from three), got to the foul stripe only four times and were dominated on the boards, 44-33.
Senior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS), Bentley's leading scorer on the season (15.0) and one of the NE-10's most accurate three-point shooters (.468), has been even better in the game following a loss. In the five contests, he's given the Falcons 17.4 points a game while shooting 53 percent overall, 56 from three-point land and 91 from the foul line.
Another Falcon whose numbers are better in games following losses is freshman forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy), who has buried 47 percent of his threes and come off the bench to average 11.2 points this season. After losses, he's 16 of 30 from downtown (.533) and has scored nearly 13 a contest.
Bentley's third double-figure scorer is sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS), whose 63 three-pointers rank as the second highest total in the NE-10. After a 19-point effort on Saturday, he's averaging 14.3 points.
While Bentley's offense features the three with 10.7 made per game, St. Michael's has yielded more three-balls than any other team in the conference, giving up about eight a game.
Offensively, St. Michael's features the conference's top scorer in sophomore guard Michael Holton, Jr. He averages 18 points a game and has put up at least 25 five times in the Knights' last ten games.
Curiously, both Bentley and St. Michael's have had more success when playing on the road this season. The Falcons are 6-2 on the road and 9-4 in the Dana Center, and the Purple Knights have won only twice in 11 appearances at the Ross Sports Center.
Bentley has had its troubles with St. Michael's in recent years with three losses in the last five meetings. The two teams split during the regular season a year ago, each winning on the road, and Bentley prevailed in the NE-10 playoffs, 67-54.
Lawson and his team will also be on the road Saturday for a 3:30 game at Southern New Hampshire.