SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Freshman forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy) netted 10 of his career-high 17 points in the second half and senior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) rebounded from a scoreless first half with 11 in the second as Bentley University battled from behind for a 61-58 win over American International College in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball Wednesday night at the Butova Gymnasium.
Bentley, which won for the third time this year after trailing by double digits in the first half, improved to 11-3 overall and 7-3 in the NE-10, remaining a game back of first-place Adelphi University in the standings. AIC, which opened the game with 11 unanswered points, dropped to 4-10 overall and 2-8 in the conference.
The Falcons, in danger of their fourth sub-20 point first half of the season, came alive after falling behind by 14, 31-17, with 3:15 left in the opening 20 minutes. Sophomore guard Spencer Braithwaite (Dorchester) and sophomore guard Janek Schmidkunz (Berlin, Germany) played a major role in the fast AIC start as they combined for five three-pointers.
Bentley reeled off ten straight points, drawing within four, before a buzzer-beating basket from freshman Braxton Gardner (Bridgeport, Conn.) sent the home team into the half up six, 33-27. Junior forward Dan O'Keefe (Lexington/Lexington HS) scored the first five of the Falcon comeback, junior guard Greg Jacques (Brockton/St. Sebastian's HS) came up with a steal and took it the distance for a lay-up, and Shaw buried the first of his three three-pointers.
The Falcons' first lead of the game and the contest's final lead change came during a 12-2 Bentley run that produced a 47-43 advantage with 10:47 left. Freshman guard J.P. Koury (Red Bank, N.J./CBA) scored on a drive with 13:00 on the second-half clock to put the Falcons in front for the first time, 42-41, and Shaw's triple from the right wing with 11:17 to play gave Bentley a lead it would never relinquish, 45-43.
Later in the second, Leclerc and Shaw hit consecutive threes to start a 10-1 run that extended Bentley's lead to 11, 61-50, with 3:59 remaining. The driving lay-up by Jacques that made it an 11-point game proved to be the Falcons' final points of the night.
Three-pointers from grad student Sesoo Ikpah (Williamstown, N.J.) and Braithwaite brought AIC to within five, 61-56, with 3:09 remaining, and two Ikpah free throws with 1:55 left proved to be the final points of the game. Bentley's ensuing possession ended with a 35-second violation, and after a missed three and an offensive rebound, AIC gave the ball back on a traveling call with 45.8 seconds left.
Following a Falcon missed triple with about 10 seconds to play, sophomore Brennan Cooper (Springfield) claimed his ninth rebound for AIC. Yellow Jacket coach Art Luptowski took a timeout with 4.7 seconds left to set up a final play, but the inbound pass was off the mark and eventually wound up in the hands of Bentley senior forward Kevin Kettl (Hershey, Pa./Hershey HS) as the final horn sounded.
Shaw, who also had four rebounds, earned his 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting overall. Leclerc (7 rebounds) matched Shaw's three trifectas, and Jacques was the other Falcon to score in doubles. He finished with 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Schmidkunz and Ikpah led the way for AIC, finishing with 16 and 11 points, respectively.
Bentley's 52 percent shooting in the second half boosted the team to 41 percent for the game, slightly better than AIC's 40 percent. The Falcons doubled the Jackets from the line, making 10 of 13, and cut final rebound deficit to 33-30 after AIC had an early21-9 advantage.
The Falcons will be in the Dana Center on Saturday for a 3:30 pm game against Saint Rose.