WALTHAM, Mass. – The Bentley University women's basketball team, ranked 22nd in this week's WBCA/USA TODAY Sports Division II coaches' poll, will be seeking its seventh win in eight games Saturday afternoon in the third of a four-game homestand, but it won't be an easy task.
Providing the opposition will be undefeated Southern New Hampshire University, whose 7-0 record is tied for the best in the East. Tipoff at the Dana Center is scheduled for 1:30 pm with a free webcast available at www.bentleyfalcons.tv for those unable to be in attendance.
Bentley ran its record to 6-1 overall, including 2-1 in the Northeast-10 and 3-0 at home, with its fourth wire-to-wire win of the season, 71-55 over NYIT Monday night. Coach Barbara Stevens' team erupted for 26 points in the fourth, matching its highest scoring quarter of the season, after seeing its lead slip to three early in the final stanza.
Junior forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy), coming off her fourth double-double of the season, will enter Saturday's game with 996 points. She's poised to become the Falcons' 34th 1,000-point scorer and the 17th to do so before her final season.
Gemma's season norm is a conference-leading 19.6 with the six-footer shooting 57 percent overall and 86 percent from the foul stripe. She's also Bentley's top rebounder (9.1) and is tied for third in assists (16).
Sophomore guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS), a 52 percent shooter from three-point land, follows at 9.9 points a game. She's scored in doubles in three of the last four games, putting up 10.8 ppg during that stretch.
Bentley head coach Barbara Stevens, whose win total stands at 934 (fifth most all-time), has nine other players who average at least nine minutes and score between 3.0 and 6.6 a game. That group includes freshman guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) and sophomore guard Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School).
Lewis leads Bentley in assists (24) and steals (13) while averaging 6.6 points and five rebounds. Smith has been returning to the form she displayed at the start of last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury. In the two games since Thanksgiving, she's scored 18 points in 25 minutes while making seven of 11 shots, including four of seven triples.
Outstanding defense is a major reason why Southern New Hampshire is off to a 7-0 start for the first time since 1988-89. The Penmen lead the conference in field goal percentage defense (.330), blocked shots (29) and fewest fouls committed (13.4) while yielding only 53.3 points a game. Their opponents have connected on just 18 percent of their three-pointers and have scored more than 59 only twice.
That D will be tested by the Falcons, who lead the NE-10 in field goal percentage (.458), assists (18.6), three-point shooting (.425 with 7.7 a game) and rebound margin (+17.4). The 71.3 scoring average is third best in the conference.
Junior guard Sara Ryan and two-time NE-10 Rookie of the Week Kylie Lorenzen lead SNHU in scoring, averaging 12.4 and 11.4 points a game. Lorenzen has had a significant impact as she leads the club in both rebounds (7.3) and steals (16) while also being second in scoring.
In the team's most recent game, the Penmen handed Assumption, the only team to beat Bentley thus far, its second straight loss. SNHU scored 43 second-half points to prevail 67-57 and limited the Hounds to 34 percent shooting. The bench accounted for 33 of the 67 points with Lorenzen netting 15 and Brianna Camara 11.
Bentley will be right back at it Monday night, hosting Saint Anselm at 6 pm.