Explosive 1st-Half Powers No. 1 Bentley Past Merrimack, 76-52

Courtney Finn
Courtney Finn

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. –Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames), Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) and Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS), three of the top 20 scorers in program history, combined to score 34 of Bentley University's first 39 points and Division II's number one-ranked team went on to a 76-52 win over Merrimack College in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball Wednesday night at Hammel Court.

Finn, a grad student, led the undefeated Falcons (8-0, 5-0 NE-10) with 16 points and Battista, a senior All-America forward, followed with 15. Brugliera, also a senior forward, followed with nine without missing a shot. None of the three saw much action in the second half and the trio finished the game a collective 14-of-17 from the field.

Bentley went into the halftime break with a commanding 29-point lead, 44-15, with Merrimack having as many turnovers as points during the first 20 minutes.

Finn staked the Falcons to a lead they would never relinquish when she buried a three from the left corner 20 seconds into the contest. That ignited a 10-2 opening burst that included another corner three and a lay-up from the All-Conference guard.

After a pair of Merrimack free throws, Bentley ran off nine straight, the last seven scored by Battista, to make it a 19-4 game after eight-and-a-half minutes. At that juncture, the Warriors had just one basket in six attempts and six giveaways.

Finn's third triple of the opening frame made it a 23-7 game midway through the first, and the Falcons used a run of 15 unanswered later in the half to make it a 44-12 contest with 90 seconds still on the clock.

The foul- and turnover-plagued second half saw the Falcon lead range from 23 to 31 points with non-starters seeing a large portion of the playing time for Bentley.

Finn achieved her game-high 16 on 6-of-8 shooting with four three-pointers.  She also provided five rebounds and three assists. Battista also missed only two shots, finishing 7-of-9 from the floor. Brugliera made all four of her shot attempts  and her nine points was matched by junior guard Kelsey Mattice (Cicero, N.Y./Cicero North Syracuse HS) and freshman forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy).

Bentley outshot the Warriors 55-32 percent overall, had a 7-3 advantage in three-pointers and committed seven fewer turnovers. The Falcons doubled Merrimack in terms of points off, 24-12, and finished with a 33-15 edge in bench scoring.

Junior Aria Johnson (Los Osos, Calif.) was the only double-figure scorer for Merrimack (3-4, 1-3 NE-10), finishing with ten points.

Bentley will play its final home game before the new year on Saturday, taking on St. Michael's at 1:30 pm.