LOWELL, Mass. -- Senior Dipanjot Singh (Evanston, Ill.), a transfer from Illinois-Chicago, erupted for 27 points, including 15 in the first half to keep his team close, as UMass-Lowell overcame a five-point halftime deficit to defeat visiting Bentley University, 85-76, in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball Tuesday night at Costello Gym. It was the regular season finale for both clubs.
With the win, UMass-Lowell secured a first-round bye and quarterfinal home game in the upcoming NE-10 playoffs. Bentley will also get a home playoff game, but that will come in the opening round, Friday night with the eighth-seeded Falcons taking on number nine Assumption at 7 pm.
Sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS) led Bentley with 21 points, and senior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) followed with 14. The two combined to bury nine three-pointers with Grassa, the NE-10 leader in three-balls, five of nine and Leclerc four of eight.
Bentley, which had overcome an early nine-point deficit, used 60 percent shooting, including a 7-for-15 performance from three, to build a 43-38 halftime lead. Down 22-18, the Falcons turned the game around with a 12-2 spurt over a span of about three minutes. That made it a 30-24 game and coach Jay Lawson's club maintained the lead the rest of the half.
Freshman guard J.P. Koury (Red Bank, N.J./CBA) tallied the first seven of that run, with a three-pointer, a lay-up following a steal and a pair of free throws. After Singh interrupted matters with a jumper, the Falcons continued with a three-pointer from sophomore forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy) and a fast-break lay-up by junior guard Greg Jacques (Brockton/St. Sebastian's HS).
As hot as Bentley was in the first half from the floor, it was just the opposite in the opening minutes of the second half. The Falcons had eight second-half possessions before finally getting a three from freshman forward Jate Cheshul (Galloway, N.J./Holy Spirit HS) nearly four minutes after play resumed. That three ended an 8-0 River Hawk run and tied the game at 46-all.
Bentley tied the game one more time, on a Jacques fast-break lay-up with 11:35 left. He was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw that would have put the Falcons back on top. UMass-Lowell countered by running off nine in a row, a spurt that began with a long jumper by sophomore guard Scotty Tavares-Taylor (Roxbury) and was finished by a pair of lay-ups from senior guard Robbie Walton (South Boston), the second of which made it 64-55 with 8:46 left.
A Grassa three with 6:34 made it a six-point game but that would be as close as Bentley would come. Leclerc connected from downtown with 1:19 on the clock to reduce the UML lead to 79-72, but the home team locked up the win by making six of six free throws in the final 80 seconds, including four by Singh.
Grassa and Leclerc were followed on the scoring list by Shaw, with nine, and junior guard Mike Topercer (Scottsdale, Ariz./New Hampton Prep), with eight. Jacques tied his career-best with nine assists and also scored six.
Singh (9-16 from the field, 4-8 from three, 5-5 from the line) was one of four River Hawks to score in doubles. He was followed by sophomore guard Akeem Williams (Brockton) and sophomore forward Antonio Bivins (Miami, Fla.), each with 16, and Walton added 11, along with five steals.
UMass-Lowell (17-9, 13-9 NE-10) outshot the Falcons, 50-46 percent and got to the line 12 more times, making six more (17-11). The River Hawks also dominated the boards, 37-27, and forced 19 turnovers, which they turned into 21 points. Bentley had the edge in three-pointers, knocking down 13 to Lowell's eight.
Bentley finished the regular season at 15-11 overall and 11-11 NE-10.