WALTHAM, Mass. – Some 55 years after the Bentley University men's basketball team faced Merrimack College in its first-ever game, the two long-time foes will square off for potentially the final time Saturday afternoon on Merrimack's Hammel Court in North Andover.
Tip-off is set for 3 pm and the game can be seen on the NE10 NOW digital network.
Merrimack, which will be exiting the Northeast-10 and moving to Division I next year, and Bentley are both in the hunt for the second seed out of the conference's Northeast Division with the regular season down to its final two games.
Merrimack, 17-9 overall and 12-7 NE10, currently has the hold on second with Bentley a game back in third. The Falcons, 18-8 overall and 11-8 conference, earned a 65-59 win over the Warriors back in November and would gain control of the tiebreaker with a win.
Bentley has won three of its last five, including 77-74 at Saint Michael's Wednesday, while Merrimack has lost two of its last three after an eight-game stretch in which the Warriors were 7-1.
In the earlier meeting between the two programs, Bentley outscored the Warriors 45-31 in the second half after being limited to a first-half season-low 20. Senior guard Ryan Richmond (Toronto, Ont./ Thomson Collegiate), who scored his 1,500th career point in the win, led the comeback with 20 of his game-high 23 coming after the break.
Richmond's total has since topped 2,000 and with 2,041, he is 28 from surpassing Jason Westrol '10 for third on the program's all-time list. The NE10's leading scorer, the six-one senior is averaging 24.1 after setting a school record of 23.6 last season. Over the last ten games, he's put up 28.5 points per game while playing 394 of 405 minutes.
Junior forward Chris Hudson (Hodgdon, Maine/Williston Northampton) is the NE10's top offensive rebounder, averaging 2.9 a game, and his season norms are 14.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. The Saint Michael's game ended an eight-game stretch in which he grabbed multiple offensive boards as he had just one.
Sophomore guard Colton Lawrence (Myerstown, Pa./ELCO HS) is second on the team in scoring (14.8), rebounding (6.8) and three-point accuracy (.401) this season. In six games this month, he's averaged three treys per contest.
With Richmond (161-180, .894) among the national leaders in free throws, Bentley is on pace to shatter the school record for team free throw percentage (.787, 1979-80). The Falcons lead Division II at .820 and have outscored their opponents at the line 397-238 this season.
Merrimack features junior guard Juvaris Hayes, the D-II leader in steals and one of the top ten in assists. He stuffs the stat sheet with 19.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and nearly four steals a game. Hayes has made 53 percent of his shots and has gotten to the line 138 times. Turnovers can be an issue as he's lost it 116 times.
Senior forward Ryan Boulter (13.7 ppg) and junior guard Jaleel Lord (11.0) both rely heavily on the three ball. Combined, 73 percent of their shot attempts have been from downtown with Boulter having made 80 and Lord 64.
Junior forward Idris Joyner, who averages 9.6 points, is a threat inside with a .627 field goal percentage.
Merrimack's zone has limited their opponents to a .417 field goal percentage, second best in the NE10, and 6.6 three-pointers, third fewest in the conference.
After facing the Warriors for the 98th time, Bentley will wrap up the regular season at home on Tuesday against Franklin Pierce.