Defending Champs Look to Cool Off 8-1 Franklin Pierce Wednesday night

Jasper Grassa
Jasper Grassa

WALTHAM, Mass. – The reigning Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball champions and the conference's hottest team will square off Wednesday night when the Bentley University Falcons travel to Rindge, N.H.  to take on surprising Franklin Pierce University. Tip-off at the FPU Field House is set for 7:30 pm.

Bentley, which has finished first in the NE-10 six of the last seven years, will take a 6-2 overall record into the game after using 15 three-pointers to shoot down Southern New Hampshire on Saturday, 92-76.

Franklin Pierce, projected to finish 15th in the NE-10 preseason coaches poll after a six-win season a year ago, is enjoying its best start to a season in 19 years. The Ravens have won their last six games to improve to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the NE-10, good for a share of first in the conference with Stonehill and Adelphi.

Bentley has been unbeaten this season when it puts at least 60 points on the scoreboard and is the second highest scoring team in the NE-10, averaging 74.4 points. Meanwhile, Franklin Pierce has been one of the best defensively, limiting the opposition to 60.2 points overall and to less than 60 in seven of nine games.

Bentley enters Wednesday as the most prolific three-point shooting team in the conference, knocking down 10.5 per game. The team's 15 treys against SNHU, achieved in only 26 attempts for a .577 accuracy mark, was their highest total since January 2008 and the sixth time this season they've reached double digits in that category.

Sophomore Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS) led the three-point barrage against Southern New Hampshire, with seven in only nine attempts en route to a career-high 27 points. Bentley's leading scorer (15.5 ppg) leads the NE-10 in three-balls (3.5 per game) and is connecting with 43-percent accuracy from beyond the arc.

Freshman Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy) and senior Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) have also been knocking down threes with regularity, and are two of the five NE-10 players who make at least two treys a game while shooting at least 45 percent from downtown. Shaw, used off the bench, is 17 of 36 (.472) and Leclerc is 20 of 43 (.465).

Junior forward Dan O'Keefe (Lexington/Lexington HS) is the team's premier inside threat with a 13.9 scoring average. He's scored in doubles in every game, has made 14 of 26 shot attempts the last two contests and is coming off a career-high 19-point effort in Saturday's game with Southern New Hampshire.

Franklin Pierce, which has achieved the hot start despite losing the top two scorers from last year's squad, has been led by junior guard Eric Jean-Guillaume. He is shooting 47 percent from three and leads the team in scoring (15.2), defensive rebounds (38) and steals (26) while also averaging 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Freshman forward Ryen Vilmont (10.2 ppg) has been a positive addition for the Ravens, as has sophomore guard Curtis Christian (9.0).

After facing the Ravens, Bentley will complete the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule Saturday at Stonehill.