WALTHAM, Mass. – The Bentley University Falcons and the Jefferson University Rams have been two of the top teams in NCAA Division II East Region men's basketball during the opening couple weeks of the season. Bentley won its first four, including two against Northeast-10 Conference opponents, and Jefferson is an overtime loss to Saint Anselm College away from a 5-0 start.
Sunday at noon, the two clubs will square off at Bentley's Dana Center with a free webcast available at www.NE10NOW.tv.
There will be no shortage of head coaching experience on the sidelines with the two coaches, Bentley's Jay Lawson and Jefferson's legendary Herb Magee having about 80 seasons between them Lawson is in his 28th year while Magee, a Basketball Hall of Famer with 1,078 career victories, has led Jefferson (formerly Philadelphia) since 1967.
Lawson's Falcons have turned in a winning record in 22 of the last 23 seasons. Magee's teams have finished below .500 only three times in 51 years and have recorded 21 consecutive winning seasons.
Bentley has been idle since pulling out a 65-59 NE10 win over Merrimack College last Saturday. Limited to 20 points in the first half and down eight at the break, the Falcons erupted for 45 points during the second half on 52 percent shooting and perfection on 15 attempts from the foul stripe.
Bentley senior guard Ryan Richmond (Toronto, Ont./Thomson Collegiate), who had 20 second-half points and became the 14th 1,500-point scorer in program history in that game, leads the Falcons with a 22.5 scoring average. That's after he put up 22.6 as a sophomore, the third highest total by a Falcon at the time, and a school record 23.6 last season.
Richmond is shooting an impressive .568, has knocked down 9 of 15 threes and is a sparkling 31 of 33 at the foul stripe. He's also averaging 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
The remainder of Lawson's starting five also own double-figure scoring averages. Sophomore guard Colton Lawrence (Myerstown, Pa./ECHO HS) is averaging 13.8 points in addition to leading the squad in rebounds (8.0) and blocks (5). Senior forward Zach Gilpin (Hampden, Maine/Hampden Academy) follows with a 13.5 average on 62 percent shooting.
Junior forward Chris Hudson (Hodgdon, Maine/Northampton Williston School) has scored 11.5 points a game during the first four and sophomore guard Jordan Mello-Klein (Sharon/Thayer Academy) is up to 10.5 after scoring 14 against Merrimack
While Bentley's starting five has been responsible for 84 percent of the team's scoring to date, all but six percent of Jefferson's points have come from the starters. Magee's bench has seen only 87 minutes of playing time in the first five games with all five starters averaging at least 34 minutes.
That includes junior guard Kylan Guerra, who has been on the court for 204 of 205 minutes and is averaging 40.8 minutes. He's off to a strong start to the season with averages of 15.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and five assists.
Guerra is one of three Rams averaging about 15 a game. Freshman guard Deondre Bourne tops the list at 15.8 and is shooting 41 percent from three. Six-foot-seven junior Devaughn Mallory leads the team in rebounds (7.8) in addition to producing 15.0 points a game.
Jefferson, in addition to the 79-75 loss to Saint Anselm, has faced two other NE10 teams so far this season. They edged American International, 66-61, and posted a 72-68 win over Merrimack.
Last year, Bentley traveled to Jefferson and suffered their only loss during the month of November, 76-71, despite 21 points off the bench from then-sophomore guard Seth Stankiewicz (Reading, Pa./Hill School). Guerra and six-foot-six Josh Bradanese, the only returning starters for the Rams, each scored 16.
Bentley will resume Northeast-10 play on Wednesday night at Franklin Pierce.