WALTHAM, Mass. – Junior forward Caleigh Crowell (Harwich/Worcester Academy) recorded a double-double off the bench and junior All-America Lauren Battista (Easton/Oliver Ames HS) matched Crowell's 16 points as two-time defending NCAA Division II East Region champion Bentley University opened its season with a 78-64 win over Holy Family University in non-conference women's basketball Sunday afternoon at the Dana Center.
It was the first meeting of the two since last March's NCAA East Regional final when Bentley overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to top Holy Family 84-73 to earn a return trip to the Elite Eight. Both are highly touted preseason this year with the Falcons second in the USA Today Sports/ESPN/WBCA rankings and the Tigers 12th.
Bentley seized control of this one with a 23-8 burst over the final nine minutes of the first half, a run that sent the Falcons to the locker room up 16, 39-23. Back-to-back three-pointers from senior guard Kelsey Roberson (Arlington/Arlington Catholic HS) and freshman guard Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan HS) got the run started with back-to-back three-pointers, and Battista followed with a traditional three-point play to make it 25-15.
Following a pair of free throws by the visitors, Crowell and senior guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) connected from downtown during an 8-2 spurt that extended the lead to 13, 33-20. Holy Family got back to within ten on a three-ball from senior guard Molly Hanlon (Nasberth, Pa.) with 2:33 left, but the final six points of the first half belonged to the Falcons.
Bentley remained hot from outside during the first five minutes of the second half with Battista, Roberson and White all connecting during a 13-7 run that made it a 22-point game, 52-30.
The Holy Family offense came alive after that, and the Tigers closed to within seven, 65-58 with just over four minutes left.
The Tigers had a chance to get closer, but turned it over on their next two possessions. Crowell drained a three from the left corner with 2:27 left to return the lead to double figures, and came up with an offensive rebound and lay-up with 1:35 on the clock to make it a 12-point bulge, 70-58.
Following a Holy Family trey and timeout, Bentley locked up the win with six straight, beginning with a fast-break lay-up by White following a full court inbound pass from Finn.
Crowell gave the Falcons 10 rebounds in addition to the 16 points, and Battista's line included nine rebounds, five steals, five-of-eight shooting and perfection on five free throw attempts.
Roberson, also five of eight from the floor, followed with 14 points and three assists, and White provided 11 points, five assists and three steals off the bench in her collegiate debut. Finn gave the Falcons eight points, six rebounds and four assists, and Bentley also received five assists, five points, three rebounds and three steals from junior guard Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./Central HS).
Senior forward Erin Mann (West Chester, Pa.) led Holy Family with 17 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
Bentley outshot the Tigers 47-37 percent overall and its ten three-pointers was one more than Holy Family made. The Falcons also had a nine-rebound advantage, 43-34, and a slight edge at the line, making 10 of 11, as compared to seven of ten.
Bentley will open defense of its Northeast-10 championship Wednesday at UMass-Lowell.