MANCHESTER, N.H. – Strong starts to each half by Southern New Hampshire University propelled the Penmen to a 76-66 win over Bentley University in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball Saturday afternoon at the SNHU Fieldhouse and gave the Falcons their first three-game losing streak in two years.
Southern New Hampshire, which snapped a four-game slide, answered a game-opening basket by Bentley junior forward Mike Topercer (Scottsdale, Ariz./New Hampton Prep) with 13 straight points to take a lead it would never relinquish. The Penmen, who were up nine at the break after scoring the final four points before intermission, made their first nine field goal attempts after play resumed, extending their lead to 56-41 with 13 minutes to play.
Freshman forward Aleksandar Drobovic (Podgorica, Montenegro) powered SNHU with a career-high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting, 10 rebounds and five assists. Sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn, Mass./Lynn Classical HS) was the top scorer for Bentley, nailing five three-pointers en route to 19 points.
After falling behind by double figures early, Bentley battled back and got within two, 24-22, when freshman forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy) capped a 6-0 spurt with 4:48 left.
The Penmen answered with a three-point play by senior guard Josh Morgan-Green (Upper Marlboro, Md.) and a jumper from freshman B.J. Caldarelli (Manchester, Conn.), and Bentley never got closer than four the rest of the way.
By the time the two clubs headed for the locker rooms at the break, Southern New Hampshire was shooting a lofty 67 percent inside the three-point line, 12 of 18. Meanwhile, Bentley was just 11 of 30 overall, including only 4 of 18 from three. Shaw (13 points, 5-8 shooting) accounted for nearly half of the Falcons' offense with the rest of the team combining for 14 points on 6-of-22 shooting.
Despite SNHU's red-hot shooting to open the second half, Bentley was still within reach with 12 minutes to play, trailing by a dozen at 56-44. However, any hopes the Falcons had of a comeback were dashed as the Penmen used a 15-7 burst over the next five-plus minutes, capped by a three from freshman Elijah Bonsignore (Felton, Del.), to make it a 20-point game, 71-51 with 6:40 left.
Bentley closed the game with a 15-5 run that included three triples from Grassa, but it was too little, too late.
Dobrovic was joined in double figures by Caldarelli, with 15 points, and Bonsignore, with a dozen. Combined, the trio of freshmen accounted for 52 of their team's 76 points.
Grassa was followed on the Bentley scoring list by senior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/ Winthrop HS), with 16 points, and Shaw, with 14. Shaw was the Falcons' top rebounder, pulling in seven.
Southern New Hampshire finished the game with a .544 field goal percentage, including a lofty 65 percent inside the arc. The latter number helped the Penmen dominate in the paint, 38-12.
The loss dropped Bentley to 11-8 in the conference and 15-8 overall, the Falcons slipping to a tie for fifth in the NE-10. Southern New Hampshire moved to .500 overall (12-12) and improved to 8-11 in the conference.
Bentley will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts second-place Franklin Pierce Tuesday at 7:30 pm.