WALTHAM, Mass. – Led by the triumvirate of sophomore point guard Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School), senior All-America forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy) and junior guard Trevena Bennett (Union, N.J./Gill St. Bernard School), Bentley University registered a 79-70 win over American International College in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball Saturday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Smith established a new career-best for the second time in four days, finishing with 26 points and six assists. Gemma put up 24 points and 13 rebounds, and Bennett knocked down a season-best five three-pointers for 15 points.
Bentley, number 15 in the latest WBCA Division II coaches poll, bounced back from Wednesday's 2-point loss at Adelphi to improve to 13-4 overall (9-1 NE10). AIC slipped to 12-6 overall and 7-3 in conference play.
The two teams went into the final stanza knotted at 48 apiece after Smith drained a three-ball with five seconds left in the third. The fourth saw the Falcons erupt for 31 points, tying the school record for a quarter set New Year's Day against Holy Family, by shooting 61 percent overall, making four of five threes and knocking down 11 of 16 free throws.
After AIC made the first basket of the fourth, Bentley embarked on a Bennett-fueled 8-0 run to jump on top for good. Gemma knocked down two free throws to tie the contest and Bennett followed with back-to-back triples, both from the left wing, to make it 56-50 with 7:40 remaining.
A little more than a minute later, Bennett drained another three-ball, igniting a 10-3 burst that produced a 10-point lead at 68-58 with 3:14 to play. Smith, who had 11 points in the fourth, locked up the win with seven points in the final 2:03, including five of six from the foul line.
There was very little separation between the two clubs during the first three quarters with the biggest lead being five, by the home team a couple times early in the second. A three by sophomore guard Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS) put Bentley up 19-16 after one, and AIC led 32-30 at the half following a closing 6-0 spurt.
Smith, who finished with 24 points in the Adelphi game, put up eight in the second quarter and seven in the third before her big fourth quarter. Bentley's primary ball handler converted 12 of 14 free throws and also had only one turn in 39 minutes.
Gemma matched Smith's 6-for-11 shooting afternoon and was also perfect from the foul line, making 12 of 12. Bennett, who entered the game with only nine treys to her credit all season, buried five of seven from line distance.
Sophomore Dana Watts (Rochester, N.Y.), the conference's leading scorer and rebounder, led AIC with 18 points and seven rebounds, both more than four below her season norms. The Yellow Jackets also received a strong effort off the bench from freshman guard Rashana Siders (Waterbury, Conn.), with four three-pointers and a total of 16 points.
Bentley shot 51 percent overall, including 53 percent from three-point land (9-17), and held AIC to 44.3 percent. The Falcons attempted twice as many free throws, finishing 26 of 36, and held a 34-29 rebounding edge.
Bentley will be back at home Wednesday for a 5:30 encounter with Pace.