WALTHAM, Mass. – After pulling out a one-point win at Saint Anselm College Sunday afternoon, the Bentley University men's basketball team will be back in the Dana Center Wednesday night for a 7:30 pm Northeast-10 Conference encounter with St. Michael's College.
The Falcons, 5-1 overall and 2-1 NE-10 to start the season, are currently in a eight-way tie for second place in the conference, all sitting a game back of Assumption College. The Greyhounds are the only Northeast-10 club to start the conference schedule with three consecutive wins.
St. Michael's, 2-4 overall, is another one of the eight 2-1 teams. The Purple Knights upended preseason favorite UMass-Lowell (the only team that has beaten Bentley) a week ago but will be looking to rebound from Sunday's 20-point loss to Franklin Pierce (74-54).
Bentley's offense this season has been led by a trio of players, all of whom have similar scoring averages with each having been the team's top scorer in two games. Junior forward Dan O'Keefe (Lexington/Lexington HS) currently tops the scoring list at 13.3 points a game, and he's also number one on the squad in rebounds (6.5 average), blocked shots (11) and free throw percentage (.864).
A 19-point effort at Saint Anselm boosted the scoring average of senior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) to 13.2 points, and sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS) follows at 13.0 ppg.
Leclerc, at six-foot-one, has been the team's top defensive rebounder (29) and he has knocked down half of his three-point attempts, as has freshman forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy), who averages 10 points off the bench. Leclerc is 14 of 28 from downtown and Shaw is 13 of 26.
Most of St. Michael's offense revolves around sophomore guard Michael Holton, Jr., who is the team's only double-figure scorer. His 18.8 scoring average is fourth best in the NE-10, and he's also provided the assist on 17 baskets. Holton is a 90 percent foul shooter who with 36 free throws, by far a conference-high.
Bentley and St. Michael's staged three battles last year with the Falcons coming out on top in two of those. Both teams shot exceptionally well (Bentley 68 percent, St. Michael's 14-24 from three) in a six-point Falcon win in early January, and the Purple Knights limited the Falcons to only 42 points in a 12-point SMC road victory about a month later.
The third meeting came in the NE-10 playoff quarterfinals, with Bentley rallying for a 67-54 win after trailing by eight with 14 minutes left.
Bentley will also be at home on Saturday, with a 3:30 pm game with Southern New Hampshire on tap.