WALTHAM, Mass. – Bentley University senior All-America Lauren Battista (North Easton/ Oliver Ames HS), the program's all-time leading scorer, dropped in 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting as the nation's number one-ranked Division II team stayed unbeaten, 92-49 over Merrimack College Tuesday night in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball at the Dana Center.
Bentley, which has maintained the top ranking in the USA TODAY Sports/WBCA Division II poll since the preseason, improved to 22-0 overall and 17-0 in the NE-10, clinching the conference's Northeast Division in the process and home court advantage throughout the NE-10 postseason championship tournament.
With the win, Bentley's senior class also moved to an amazing 100 games over .500 with the team's record since the Class of 2014 arrived in the fall of 2010 standing at 111-11.
Battista, who boosted her point total to 1,885, achieved her 26 points in just 26 minutes of playing time and also provided four rebounds, three assists and two steals before exiting the game for the final time with nearly nine minutes still to play. Nineteen of her points came in the first half and she had as many field goals (11) as Merrimack had as a team during the game's first 30 minutes.
After several early lead changes, an 11-2 run put Bentley in front to stay at 20-12. The Falcons had the long ball working during that stretch with grad student Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) connecting twice from the left wing and Battista draining one from the right wing.
Nine unanswered points late in the first half made it a 37-22 game. That flurry included a pair of baskets from freshman forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy), who had her 12th double-digit scoring game of her rookie season.
A 10-0 burst that included triples by Finn and senior forward Caleigh Crowell (Harwich/ Worcester Academy) early in the second half extended the lead to 23, 51-28, with nearly 16 minutes still to play. About a minute later, a Battista free throw provided the opening point in a 19-2 explosion, the Falcon advantage growing to 72-33 with 9:12 remaining.
Three teammates joined Battista in double figures including Finn, who finished with 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Off the bench, junior guard Kelsey Mattice (Cicero, N.Y./Cicero North Syracuse HS) scored 11 points and Gemma finished with ten.
Merrimack's top scorer was junior guard Chloe Rothman (Newton) with nine.
As expected by the score, Bentley dominated the most of the statistics, including field goal percentage (55-36 percent), three-pointers (8-1), rebounds (40-25) and turnovers (15-25). The Falcons outscored the Warriors 48-22 in the paint, 32-15 off turnovers and 18-2 on second chance opportunities.
Next up for the Falcons is a Saturday afternoon game at St. Michael's College.