Late Free Throw Struggles Costly as Bentley Drops 1st in Battle of Unbeatens

Victoria Lux
Victoria Lux

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Bentley University Falcons misfired seven of eight free throws in a two-minute span late in the fourth and the University of Sciences Devils closed with an 8-1 run as the visitors from Pennsylvania prevailed, 76-71, in a battle of unbeatens in non-conference women's basketball Friday night at the Dana Center.

Number five-ranked Bentley, which missed 14 free throws in total and was 0-for-10 from three after intermission, dropped to 12-1 on the year. Ninth-ranked USciences, which ended the Falcons' season in the NCAA East Regional each of the last two seasons, improved to 9-0.

Bentley, whose last field goal of the night came on a hook by senior forward Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) that made it 69-64 with more than six minutes remaining, was up 69-68 when freshman Kolleen Bouchard (Houlton, Maine/Houlton HS) was fouled with 3:14 on the clock.

The USciences bench was hit with a technical on the play but Bentley failed to take advantage with senior guard Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS) missing both. Bouchard took her turn at the line and sank one of two for a 70-68 lead.

Graduate forward Colleen Walsh (Downington, Pa.) tied the game up with two free throws for the Devils and sophomore guard Irisa Ye (North Wales, Pa.) gave USciences the lead, 72-70, with a driving lay-up with 2:11 left.

Following a diving offensive rebound by Bentley sophomore forward Marissa Fontaine (Franklin/Bishop Feehan HS), junior guard Julia Ford (Charlton/Noble and Greenough) made one of two at the stripe to make it a one-point game.

Two free throws by junior guard Jordan Vitelli (Warrington, Pa.) with 1:14 left extended the Devils lead to three with 74 seconds left. Bentley came up empty on two possessions in the final minute and senior guard Alex Thomas (Hockessin, Del.) put the game out of reach with two foul shots with :03 remaining.

Bentley held the lead at the end of each of the first three quarters. A 12-5 burst, which included two Fontaine triples and a mid-range jumper by McConnell, made it 23-20 after the opening ten minutes.

A buzzer-beating driving lay-up by junior guard Maddy Springfield (Jaffrey, N.H./Conant HS) sent Bentley to the locker room up 47-46. Both teams shot extremely well during the opening half with the Falcons 17 of 23, including five of six from deep, and the Devils 18 of 29.

Points were harder to come by in the third, with USciences held without a field goal for the final seven minutes.  Bentley closed with a 12-4 burst to carry a 60-54 lead into the fourth. Junior forward Monica Viapiano (Holden/Wachusett Reg. HS), with four points, was one of four Falcons to score during the run.

Lux led the Falcons in scoring with 17 points and also had six rebounds. That gave her 804 boards for her career, lifting her to eighth on Bentley's all-time list.

Sophomore guard Katie Meriggioli (Waunakee, Wis./Edgewood HS) followed with 12 points and McConnell finished with ten points and four assists. Springfield and Fontaine both scored eight points with Springfield also making two steals and Fontaine distributing four assists.

Ye (17), Thomas (15) and Vitelli (15) combined for 47 points for USciences, including 13 of 13 free throws. The Devils matched Bentley's 18 makes from the line, but did so in only 19 attempts.

Bentley shot better, 51-48 percent, but was uncharacteristically dominated on the boards, 37-22. USciences collected 12 offensive boards and finished with a 10-3 advantage in second chance points.

Next up for the Falcons is LIU Post at home next Saturday.