WORCESTER, Mass. – Despite a career-best 23 rebounds from sophomore post Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy), the fourth-longest win streak in NCAA Division II women's basketball history came to an end Wednesday night as Assumption College held off defending national champion Bentley University, 63-60, in Northeast-10 Conference action at the Laska Gymnasium.
Bentley, coming off a perfect 35-0 season, had opened the season with a pair of non-conference wins to extend its streak to 37 games, which had been the longest in the nation since UConn fell to Stanford on Monday. The Falcons got within two twice in the final four minutes but could never completely overcome a slow start.
Gemma, who came within two rebounds of a 39-year-old school record, also scored 14 points to top a list of five double-figure scorers for the Falcons, a group that included three freshmen. Guard Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School) scored 12 off the bench, forward Trevena Bennett (Union, N.J./Gill St. Bernard's School) followed with 11 and guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./ Damascus HS) scored 10. In addition, sophomore forward Brittany Gregory (Fishkill, N.Y./John Jay HS) provided 11 points off the bench on 5-of-6 shooting.
Sophomore guard Allison Stoddard (East Lyme, Conn.) and junior guard Kelly Conley (Ellington, Conn.) each scored 13 to pace Assumption and the duo combined to make seven of ten free throws in the final minute to keep the Hounds in front.
Assumption jumped out to an early 11-3 lead as the Hounds hit five of their first eight shots and the Falcons were committing the first three of their 23 turnovers. The lead grew to 24-14 after 12-and-a-half minutes, the first ten-point deficit Bentley had faced since the 2012-13 season.
The Falcons closed the opening stanza with a 5-1 spurt to draw within five, 30-25. Green hit an outside jumper and Bennett knocked down a triple from the left corner.
The momentum Bentley took to the locker room didn't come back for the opening minutes of the second half as Assumption started with a 15-7 burst to open a 45-32 lead with 14:39 left. That run included six inside points from sophomore forward Jo Impellizeri (Seaford, N.Y.) and a pair of triples from sophomore Kelly Carey (Long Beach, N.Y.).
Gemma and senior guard Kelsey Mattice (Cicero, N.Y./Cicero North Syracuse HS) combined on a 10-2 run that brought the Falcons within five at 47-42. Following four Greyhound points, Bentley closed to within two, 54-52 with 3:29 left, on a 10-3 spurt. That second run included four points from Bennett and three by Smith.
Two free throws by Conley and a second-chance basket by Impellizeri restored the Assumption lead to six, 58-52 with 2:45 on the clock, and Bentley did not get closer than four again until Macchi sank two from the line with 19.1, making it 63-60.
After Conley made one of two from the line, Green scored on a driving lay-up to bring the Falcons within two with 4.6 seconds left. Stoddard missed the second of two free throws, Gemma grabbed her 23rd board, but the clock expired before Bentley could attempt a potential tying three.
Gemma, in addition to leading the Falcons in points and rebounds, had a team-best four assists and two steals. Smith added six points and three assists off the bench.
Bentley had the advantage in field goal percentage (.421-.371) and rebounds (50-32) but the 23 giveaways led to 23 Assumption points. In contrast, the Falcons managed only seven points off 13 Greyhound turns.
Bentley will open its home schedule on Saturday with a 1:30 pm game against Stonehill College. Prior to the contest, the national championship banner will be unveiled with ceremonies beginning at 1:15 pm.