WALTHAM, Mass. – A year ago, the Bentley University Falcons and the College of Saint Rose Golden Knights were amongst the best men's basketball teams in the NCAA Division II East Regional with Bentley reaching the regional final after downing Saint Rose in the semis.
When the Northeast-10 Conference coaches conducted their preseason poll back during the fall, successful seasons were again forecast for both with Bentley picked second and Saint Rose fourth in the 16-team conference.
However, as the NE-10 portion of the schedule closes in on its halfway point, only one of the two has met those expectations. It hasn't been easy, but Bentley is off to an 11-3 start and is tied for second place in the Northeast-10, a game off the pace. On the other hand, it took Saint Rose 14 games and two months to notch its second win, which came Wednesday night against Southern Connecticut.
The only meeting of the regular season between the two teams will take place Saturday afternoon when the Falcons host the Golden Knights at the Dana Center. Tip-off is slated for 3:30 pm.
Bentley is coming off a 61-58 win over American International, a game that necessitated the Falcons overcoming a 14-point first-half deficit to pull out the victory. It marked the fifth time this season coach Jay Lawson's club has earned a win after trailing at the half, and the third time in the last five games they've erased a deficit of at least 14 points to win.
While the Falcons have come out on top in five of six close games (by five or less, or in OT), the same hasn't been true for Saint Rose. Nine of the Golden Knights' 12 losses have been close.
Both teams currently have four players sporting double-figure scoring averages. Guards Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS) and Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) top the list for Bentley, averaging 14.4 and 14.0 points , respectively. Junior forward Dan O'Keefe (Lexington/Lexington HS) follows at 13.5, and freshman forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy) is up to 10.3 after a career-best 17 at AIC.
Six-foot-eight, 260-pound Dominykas Milka has been productive off the bench for Saint Rose, averaging a team-best 13.1 points. Senior guard Rob Gutierrez, one of four returning starters for the Golden Knights, follows at 12.9, his production down about five points a game from his first-team All-Conference season of a year ago.
Defense has played a significant role in why one team is eight games over .500 and the other is ten under. Bentley has limited its opponents to a .387 field goal percentage and has only allowed 12.9 free throws a game. On the other hand, Saint Rose's opponents have connected at a 42 percent clip and make over 17 free throws per contest.
Bentley will also be at home on Tuesday, taking on first-place Adelphi University at 7:30 pm.