WALTHAM, Mass. – Nearly three weeks after overcoming an 18-point deficit to best Stonehill College in double overtime, the Bentley University men's basketball team will finally return to work Friday night when it takes on Concordia College (N.Y.) at the Dana Center. Tip-off for the final Bentley athletic event of 2011 is set for 7 pm.
Bentley resumes its schedule with an 8-2 overall record and a three-game winning streak. Coach Jay Lawson's club, which had graduated four starters from last year's Sweet Sixteen team, won its first two before dropping a two-point decision to UMass-Lowell, and has prevailed in six of its last seven, the lone blemish since Nov. 19 coming against St. Michael's.
Concordia, which upended the Falcons early last season, will return to the Dana Center at an even .500, five up and five down. Half the games have been decided by three points or less, or in overtime, with the Clippers 3-2 in those contests (wins against Saint Rose, St. Michael's and Felician; losses to Franklin Pierce and Caldwell).
Senior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) put up the two highest scoring games of his career before Bentley embarked on the extended break, with 24 points at Franklin Pierce and 26 three days later against Stonehill. He's averaged 18.6 points and seven rebounds over the last five, boosting his season norms to 15.3 and 5.9, and has buried 17 of 36 three-pointers during that stretch.
Bentley's other two double figure scorers are sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS) and junior forward Dan O'Keefe (Lexington/Lexington HS). Grassa (14.0 ppg) leads the Northeast-10 in three-pointers (33, with a .434 accuracy rate) and O'Keefe (13.4 ppg) lifted his rebound average to a team-best 7.0 with 14 in the Stonehill game.
Junior guard Greg Jacques (Brockton/St. Sebastian's HS) is next amongst the starters with an 8.9 scoring average. During the current winning streak, he's had 11 more assists than turnovers, handing out six helpers a game.
Concordia, the second highest scoring team in the region, features the duo of forward Argelix Gil and guard Brandon Whitaker, juniors who combine for nearly 35 points a game. Gil, one of two East Region players averaging a double-double, provides 19 points, 11 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game while shooting .598 overall and 85 percent from three.
Whitaker follows with 15.6 points per game and is the team's premier playmaker with 40 assists.
Both teams draw about 18 fouls a game, but one of the major differences between the two is how many fouls they commit. Bentley leads the nation in fewest fouls, getting whistled for only 13 a game, and Concordia is last in the region with an average of 23. As a result, the Falcons have given up only 118 free throw attempts all season and the Clippers' opponents have been to the line 312 times.
After finishing 2011 and the non-conference portion of the schedule with Concordia, Bentley will play Northeast-10 teams exclusively for the rest of the regular season, beginning Tuesday at home against Assumption College.