MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Senior forward Elise Caira (Wakefield, Mass./Arlington Catholic HS) scored 18 points and claimed a dozen rebounds as the Bentley University women's basketball team, ranked 24th in Division II, extended its winning streak to eight with a 63-48 win over the University of Bridgeport Wednesday afternoon in the opening game of the Southern New Hampshire University Holiday Classic at the SNHU Field House.
Bentley, returning to action after a nine-day holiday break, shook off early rust to improve to 8-1 on the year while Bridgeport fell to 3-7.
An early 13-2 run staked Bentley to a 15-6 advantage midway through the first half and the Falcons never gave up the lead the rest of the way (although the Purple Knights did cut the advantage to one at 17-16). Ten of the 13 were scored in the paint, including a pair of baskets by freshman post Lauren Battista (North Easton, Mass./Oliver Ames HS), and the other three came on a triple by junior guard Katherine Goodwin (Goffstown, N.H./Governors Academy).
Bentley went into the halftime break up ten at 28-18, due in large part to a late run of 11 unanswered points that was fueled by sophomore guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop, Mass./Winthrop HS). After the Purple Knights had all but erased the Falcon lead, a lay-up by Caira and two free throws by senior guard Kim Brennan (Locust Velley, N.Y./Locust Valley HS) started the surge.
Finn rebounded her own three-point miss for an easy lay-up with 2:35 left, sank a pair of free throws 29 seconds later and came up with a backcourt steal that led to Caira's fourth basket of the half.
On an afternoon where both clubs struggled offensively, Bentley came out of the halftime locker room hot, hitting five of its first six shots to open a 16-point advantage at 39-23. Goodwin had five points and an assist over that stretch, and Battista had four points.
Bentley's lead peaked at 19, 46-27, when Brennan drained a three-ball from the wing with 10:17 left in the second half.
A trio of threes from Bridgeport senior guard Elinor Avny (Raanaana, Israel) reduced the Bentley advantage to 11, 52-41 with 6:45 left, but the differential never got any closer the rest of the way.
Bridgeport shot marginally better (.370 to .364) and made twice as many threes (6-3), but Bentley dominated the boards, 45-33 with 18 coming at the offensive end, and took better care of the ball (15 turnovers as compared to 24 for UB). The Falcons capitalized in both areas, with an 11-4 advantage in second-chance points and a 19-12 edge in points off turnovers.
Bentley piled up 38 points in the paint with Caira's 16 two more than Bridgeport amassed as a team. Caira finished 8 of 13 from the field and collected a third of her 12 rebounds at the offensive end.
Brennan and Goodwin both followed with nine points, Battista added eight, and both Finn and freshman forward Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg, Mass./Wachusett Reg. HS) finished with six points. Finn also provided a career-best seven rebounds, and Brugliera had six boards. The Falcons' 10 steals included two apiece by Battista, Brennan and Finn.
Avny was the only Bridgeport player in doubles as she matched Caira's 18 for game-high honors. Sophomore guard Elsebeth Birman (Silver Spring, Md.) followed with nine points.
The tournament continues on Thursday with Bentley facing Dowling College at 3:30 pm.
At Manchester, N.H. (SNHU Fieldhouse)
BENTLEY 63, BRIDGEPORT 48
BRIDGEPORT (3-7) -- Elinor Avny 6-9 2-4 18; Elsebeth Birman 3-6 3-6 9; Kelly Keil 2-9 2-5 6; Ivana Savic 2-2 0-0 6; Aziza Patterson 2-6 1-4 5; Ivy Morrison 1-2 0-0 2; Julia Colley 1-6 0-0 2; Jasmina Alisic 0-0 0-0 0; Alina Serban 0-0 0-0 0; Colleen Preusse 0-1 0-0 0; Edna Marant 0-5 0-0 0. Totals 17-46 8-19 48.
BENTLEY (8-1) -- Elise Caira 8-13 2-4 18; Katherine Goodwin 3-13 1-2 9; Kim Brennan 3-8 2-2 9; Lauren Battista 4-8 0-0 8; Courtney Finn 2-5 2-3 6; Jacqui Brugliera 1-5 4-6 6; Christiana Bakolas 2-3 0-0 4; Shatasia Kearse 1-2 0-0 2; Kelsey Roberson 0-2 1-2 1; Meghan Thomann 0-7 0-0 0; Caralyn Hart 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-66 12-19 63.
Halftime: B 28-18; 3-point goals--Br 6-12 (Avny 4-5; Savic 2-2; Patterson 0-1; Colley 0-3; Marant 0-1), Be 3-24 (Goodwin 2-8; Brennan 1-3; Finn 0-2; Brugliera 0-1; Bakolas 0-1; Roberson 0-1; Thomann 0-7; Battista 0-1). Fouled out--Keil; Savic. Rebounds--Br 33 (Morrison 7), Be 45 (Caira 12). Assists--Br 9 (Birman 3), Be 9 (Battista, Brennan, Finn 2). Total fouls--Br 20, Be 17. Technical fouls--None.