WALTHAM, Mass. – With the regular season down to its final three games, the Bentley University women's basketball team holds a two-game lead on Saint Anselm College in the battle for first in the Northeast-10 Conference's Northeast Division after both teams had their winning streak halted on Saturday.
Bentley, tied for 18th his this week's D2SIDA Division II Media Poll, will play two of its final three at home, beginning Wednesday against St. Michael's College (5:30 pm, Dana Center, www.bentleyfalcons.tv), and can clinch at least a tie with a victory over the Purple Knights. The remaining schedule also includes a Saturday matinee at Saint Anselm and a home game against Merrimack next Tuesday.
Saint Anselm is also home for two of its final three. Sandwiched around Saturday's encounter with Bentley will be a Wednesday home game against Stonehill and a trip across town to face Southern New Hampshire Feb. 23.
Any combination of two Falcon wins or two Hawk losses would give coach Barbara Stevens' team sole ownership of the Northeast Division title.
Bentley, which reached the 20-win plateau for the 31st time last week, was upended by Franklin Pierce on Saturday, 87-76, after winning its previous eight and 14 of its last 15. That left the Falcons at 20-4 overall and 14-4 NE-10 while stalling the countdown on two approaching milestones. Bentley is three wins away from becoming the first Division II team with 1,000 all-time wins and Stevens is two shy of 950 career wins.
St. Michael's will come into the Dana Center at 8-15 overall and 4-14 NE-10 after ending Saint Anselm's win streak at nine, 63-60. Before that upset, the Purple Knights had lost seven straight.
Bentley junior forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy) not only leads the Northeast-10 in scoring but the entire East Region at 19.8 points per game. She's scored at least 21 in four straight games, a stretch in which she's averaged 24.5 while shooting 49 percent overall, five of eight from downtown and 27 of 34 from the foul stripe.
Her current scoring output is on pace to break the school record of 19.5 that she set last season and Gemma 's 13 double-doubles is tied for the most by any Falcon in the last 16 seasons. Her 1,334 career points ranks fourth in Division II among current juniors.
Bentley's conference-leading 69.0 scoring average also includes 10.3 a game from sophomore guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS) and 9.0 per game from freshman guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England). Green's .430 accuracy mark from downtown is second best in the NE-10 among players making at least one a game and Lewis' 2.0 steal average is fifth best in the conference.
In St. Michael's upset of Saint Anselm Saturday, the Purple Knights held the Hawks to 23 points and 34 percent shooting in the second half, and dominated the boards in the third quarter, 10-2. Those numbers were in contrast to the majority of the season with St. Michael's last in the NE-10 in scoring defense (66.1), field goal percentage defense (.398) and rebound margin (-2.4).
The Purple Knights are led by senior guard Makenzie Burud, who is third in the conference in rebounding despite being just five-eight. She is the only player in the conference producing at least 13 points, nine rebounds and one steal with her averages 14.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg and 1.7 steals.
Sophomore guard Leah Spencer follows at 13.2 points per game and junior guard Indira Evora is up to 10.3 after scoring 19 in the Saint Anselm win.
In the earlier meeting between these clubs, Bentley fell behind by as many as 16 (32-16 early in the 2nd) and was down four with six minutes to play before closing with a 16-6 run to prevail 77-71. Gemma (21, with 15 rebounds), Green (18) and freshman forward Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/ Thornton Academy) (16, with 11 rebounds) did most of the scoring for the Falcons while Evora (23), Burud (17) and Spencer (13) nearly matched their total for St. Michael's.