WALTHAM, Mass. – It'll be a battle of unbeatens Friday night at the Dana Center when the Bentley University Falcons take on the visiting USciences Devils in a women's basketball showdown. Tip-off is set for 6 pm with a free webcast available on NE10 NOW.
Bentley, off to a 12-0 start and ranked fifth in the most recent WBCA Division II coaches poll, will be playing for the first time in 13 days. Before embarking on the holiday break, coach Barbara Stevens' team posted their fifth 30-point victory of the season, 84-51 over Molloy College.
USciences, making its first-ever visit to the Dana Center, will come up from Philadelphia with an 8-0 record and a number nine ranking. The Devils will be playing their first game since a 66-31 victory at Chestnut Hill on Dec. 8.
Bentley will be looking to turn the tables on USciences after having had their last two seasons ended by the Devils during the NCAA East Regional. The Devils won by seven both times, 73-66 in the first round at Adelphi in 2017 and 61-54 in the semis last year at Stonehill.
The Falcons are the highest scoring team in the East Region, averaging 81.3 points per game, while USciences is the stingiest defensively, giving up only 51.9.
Stevens, whose victory total stands at 1,023, has spread out the minutes this season with nine players averaging at least 16 minutes. Senior point guard Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS), one of four starters shooting at least .500 from the field, tops that list at 29.1 per game.
As the regular season approaches the midpoint, there are three Falcons scoring in double figures. Sophomore guard Katie Meriggioli (Waunakee, Wis./Edgewood HS) leads the way at 13.2 points per game and is followed by senior center Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) at 12.8 and senior forward Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) at 10.5.
Just below ten are junior forward Monica Viapiano (Holden/Wachusett Reg. HS) and McConnell, at 9.8 and 9.6, respectively. McConnell leads the Northeast-10 in three-point accuracy (17-33, .515) while Meriggioli (22-46, .478) and sophomore Marissa Fontaine (Franklin/Bishop Feehan HS) (22-47, .468) are also in the top six in accuracy from deep.
Bentley, which is shooting .480 overall and .436 from three as a team, has won its first 12 by an average of 22.9 and has outrebounded its opponents by 10.5 a game.
Sciences returned three starters from last year's 30-4 team, including double-figure scorers Alex Thomas and Jordan Vitelli. Thomas, a senior guard, is averaging 13.4 points while Vitelli, a junior guard, follows at 11.9.
Sophomore guard Irisa Ye has stepped up this season, scoring 19.1 points per game while shooting 60 percent from the floor.
Coach Jackie Hartzell's team is very protective of the basketball team as they turn the ball over only 10.5 times a game, the lowest number nationally in Division II.
After the encounter with USciences, Bentley will continue a five-game homestand with LIU Post Jan. 5 and Le Moyne Jan. 9. Sciences will remain in New England to face both Assumption and Stonehill in the Stonehill tournament Saturday and Sunday.