NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Junior guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS) buried three free throws with 17.3 seconds left to turn a two-point deficit into a one-point lead and Bentley University went on to post a 70-67 win over Southern Connecticut State in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball Saturday afternoon at the Moore Field House.
Senior All-America forward Jen Gemma (Milton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy) powered Bentley, ranked 20th in Division II by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, with 24 points and 12 rebounds. The Falcons stretched their winning streak to five and improved to 17-4 overall (13-1 NE10) while maintaining their four-game lead in the conference's Northeast Division.
Green's free throws were part of a 7-0 game-ending run for the Falcons, who trailed by four, 67-63, entering the final minute. It was the third time in four quarters that coach Barbara Stevens' club closed with a significant spurt.
Following a 13-4 Owl burst that erased a five-point Bentley advantage and put the home team up four, the Falcons began their comeback with two free throws by sophomore guard Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS).
After Green accounted for the game's 16th and final lead change, Southern Connecticut senior forward and leading scorer Taylor McLaughlin (Colchester, Conn.) missed a shot in the lane with the ball going out of bounds to Bentley.
Gemma was fouled on the inbound and she knocked down both from the stripe, making it a three-point spread with 4.0 seconds later. The game ended with Southern throwing the ball out of bounds while attempting to advance the ball from the back to the frontcourt.
Runs of 10-0 to end the first quarter and 9-0 to end the second sent Bentley into the halftime locker room riding a 34-29 lead. Smith and Gemma combined for 22 first-half points, with each scoring 11, on 10-14 shooting.
The spurt at the end of the opening stanza encompassed nearly five minutes and turned a six-point deficit into a 19-15 lead. Five different players made baskets during that stretch.
After being outscored 14-6 during the first six minutes of the second, Bentley blanked the Owls over the final 4:15. Gemma had four of the Falcons' nine, and McConnell sank a three from the right wing.
The first half was largely Bentley's inside game (22 points in the paint) against Southern's outside shooting (five three-pointers and several long two-pointers).
After Gemma scored the first basket of the third to take its biggest lead of the contest (36-29), Southern answered with an 11-2 run to reclaim the lead. There would be three more lead changes before Bentley took a 49-47 lead into the fourth.
Gemma, who boosted her career totals to 1,940 points and 969 rebounds, shot 8 of 15 overall, made both her threes and knocked down six of eight free throws. She also had three steals and an assist in her 37 minutes. Smith followed her in the scoring column, finishing with 16 on 6-of-11 shooting. Sophomore horward Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) had a career-high 15 rebounds and McConnell scored 12 off the bench.
McLaughlin led Southern with 22 points, but it took her 22 shots, including eight from downtown, and six free throws. Freshman forward Kiana Steinauer (Oakville, Ont.) put up a 15-point, 16-rebound double-double for the Owls.
Bentley shot better overall, 43-37 percent, and finished with a 39-34 rebound advantage. The Falcons were a plus-20 in the paint, 32-12, and plus-11 in points off even though turnovers were even at 12. Three-pointers favored Southern, 9-3.
On Wednesday, Bentley will be at home, taking on Stonehill College at 5:30 pm.