WALTHAM, Mass. – Following an overtime victory at Saint Anselm College Saturday, the Bentley University women's basketball team will be looking for its third win in a four-game span when it visits Merrimack College Tuesday night.
Bentley, 9-13 overall and 4-12 NE-10, will make the trek to North Andover a game back of Saint Anselm in the battle for the fifth slot in the upcoming conference championship tournament and in a three-way tie for sixth place.
Merrimack, alone in third place, had dropped six of its previous eight before prevailing over Southern New Hampshire on Saturday. The Warriors, who actually have a better road record (6-3) than home (5-6), are 7-8 in conference action.
One of those road wins was also one of Bentley's most difficult losses of the season, a 93-89 decision in overtime back in December at the Dana Center. The Falcons had a ten-point lead with just 1:06 left in regulation before needing both a game-tying free throw by sophomore forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy) with 8.8 seconds and a missed free throw by Merrimack with 0.8 on the clock to avoid a loss in regulation.
Saturday's game was full of swings. Saint Anselm scored 17 in a row to open a 21-4 lead, the Falcons outscored the home team 54-27 over the next 28 minutes to go up by ten, the Hawks finished regulation with a 16-6 surge and Bentley nearly matched that in the OT, putting up 15 points while yielding only six.
Bentley, which has only two players averaging in doubles for the season, saw five score at least ten, including a pair who had career days. Senior forward and co-captain Carlene Kluge (Reading/Reading HS) made all eight of her shots for a career-high 16 points while sophomore forward Brittany Gregory (Fishkill, N.Y./John Jay HS) provided 15 off the bench.
Freshman guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS), had her most productive game in a month, draining five three-pointers for the fourth time this season while finishing with 22 points. Included were the Falcons' first seven in the OT. That effort pushed her scoring average back to 11.5.
Gemma, the NE-10's leading scorer with a 19.3 average, put up her 11th double-double of the season, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds against the Hawks. One of her three 30-point games this season came in the earlier meeting with Merrimack when she made 12 of 18 before fouling out in the final second of regulation.
Senior guard Chloe Rothman, who had 24 against Bentley back in December, powered the Warriors with 23 points in Saturday's win, a game in which 11-9 Merrimack had 11 steals and a 21-6 advantage in points off turnovers. For the season, she's her team's leading scorer with a 15.8 average. Rothman is one of the conference's most accurate three-point shooter, connecting at a 44 percent success rate.
Senior forward Aria Johnson, the NE-10 leader in field goal percentage at .606, follows with averages of 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds. Sophomore guard Caitlyn Ganger can also be a factor with her scoring norm 9.4.
After facing Merrimack, the reigning NCAA Division II national champions will get ready for the national stage on Saturday when the Falcons' Senior Day game against St. Michael's is televised nationally by CBS Sports Network. It's an early start time with the opening jump at the Dana Center slated for just after noon.