WALTHAM, Mass. – Despite losing three 1,000-point scorers and a total of four starters from last year's team that reached the regional championship game, the Bentley University men's basketball team has won four of five to open the 2011-12 season.
The Falcons, coming off wins over Bridgeport and Merrimack, will look to make it three in a row and to improve to 5-1 overall when they visit Saint Anselm College on Sunday afternoon. Tip-off for the Northeast-10 Conference contest is set for 3:30 pm at Stoutenburgh Gymasium.
Bentley will enter Sunday's game as one of 12 teams that is 1-1 in NE-10 play as parity has ruled in the conference early on this season. Only two teams (Assumption, St. Michael's) have won their first two NE-10 games and only two are still seeking their first conference win. That latter group includes Saint Anselm, which was picked to finish third in the NE-10 preseason and is currently 2-3 overall.
The Falcons have spread the offense around over the first five games with five different players sporting scoring averages of at least ten. Topping the list, following an 18-point effort in Tuesday's 74-63 win at Merrimack, is sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS). He's at 14.4 points per game and also averages 5.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
Junior forward Dan O'Keefe (Lexington/Lexington HS) follows at 13.8 ppg and he's been asserting himself on the boards in recent games, with seven, nine and seven over the last three. Those are the three best rebounding efforts of his career.
Only three players in the Northeast-10 have at least 10 three-pointers and an accuracy rate of at least .500 from outside the arc. Two of those are Falcons, senior guard San Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/ Winthrop HS) and freshman forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy). Shaw (10.6 ppg) has come off the bench to bury 13 of 22 from downtown and Leclerc (12.0) is 11 of 22 from three-point land.
The list of double-figure scorers also includes junior guard Greg Jacques (Brockton/St. Sebastian's HS), who is averaging 11.2 points and 4.6 assists. He's made 71 percent of his two-point attempts and is at 50 percent overall.
Saint Anselm has alternated losses and wins thus far this season with the wins coming against Concordia and Post. Earlier this week, the Hawks dropped an 81-65 decision at crosstown rival Southern New Hampshire.
Saint Anselm has 36 fewer turnovers than its opponents, but has been outrebounded by eight a game and has seen its opponents shoot 44 percent overall and 48 percent inside the three-point line.
Freshman guard Roy Mabrey is off to a strong start to his collegiate career, averaging a team-best 16.6 points and shooting 52 percent on threes. Senior forward Jack Keough follows at 12.6 ppg, but sophomore forward Allen Harris is off to a slow start. He's averaging 9.6 ppg and is shooting under 40 percent after putting up 17 a game while earning NE-10 Freshman of the Year honors last year.
Bentley will be back at home on Wednesday night, playing a 7:30 pm game against St. Michael's.