A Dozen Threes and Dominating Rebounding Help No. 17 Bentley Prevail, 69-56

Katie Meriggioli
Katie Meriggioli

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A dozen three-pointers, including six from sophomore guard Katie Meriggioli (Waunakee, Wis./Edgewood HS), and a plus-19 rebound advantage helped the Bentley University Falcons prevail over Southern Connecticut State University, 69-56, in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball Saturday afternoon at the Moore Field House.

Meriggioli finished with 21 points and nine rebounds as Bentley, the 17th-ranked team in Division II, improved to 18-2 overall and 12-1 NE10. The Falcons' fifth straight win, coupled with Saint Anselm losing to red-hot Le Moyne, extended Bentley's lead in the conference's Northeast Division to three games.

Bentley closed the first half with a 14-4 run over the final five minutes to take a 38-32 lead into the break. Three-pointers played a key role with Meriggioli dropping in two from deep and both sophomore forward Marissa Fontaine (Franklin, Mass./Bishop Feehan HS) and senior guard Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS) also finding the range.

Earlier, the three-ball helped Bentley erase a 13-6 deficit. Two from distance by Meriggioli were part of an 8-0 Falcon run that produced a 14-13 lead late in the first half.

After the strong finish to the second quarter, Bentley carried the momentum into the third, scoring the first seven points to open a 45-32 advantage. Meriggioli stuck a three from the right side, senior center Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) scored on a put back and junior post Monica Viapiano (Holden, Mass./Holy Name HS) knocked down two from the line.

Back-to-back threes by McConnell, one from the left side and the other from the right wing, produced Bentley's biggest lead of the afternoon, 51-35 with 4:41 remaining in the third.

It would be more than 10 minutes before the Falcons' next field goal, but Southern Connecticut could only reduce the deficit to nine during that span.

Meriggioli ended the drought with her final triple of the afternoon making it 57-45 with just under four to play. An inside basket by Viapiano followed and the Falcons closed out coach Barbara Stevens' 1,029th career win by making 10 of 12 free throws in the final 2:07.

Meriggioli was followed on the Bentley scoring list by McConnell and Viapiano, with 15 and 10, respectively. McConnell, in 40 turnover-free minutes from the point, had 15 points, six assists and six rebounds. The Falcons also received eight points from Fontaine and 12 rebounds from Lux.

The top scorers for the Owls (12-8, 6-5 NE10) were senior forward Allie Smith (Danbury, Conn.), junior guard Imani Wheeler (Dumfries, Va.) and senior guard Amanda Pfohl (Trumbull, Conn.), all with 12. Junior forward Kiana Steinauer (Oakville, Ont.) was limited to seven points and 10 rebounds, well below her season norms of 18 points and Division II-leading 15.8 rebounds.

Both teams had 21 field goals, but Bentley had the advantage in accuracy (42-37 percent), three-pointers (12-7) and free throws (15-7). The Falcons came close to doubling the Owls on the boards, collecting 42 errant shots while giving up only 23. Their 12 offensive boards resulted in a 17-2 domination in second-chance points.

Southern outscored the Falcons 14-3 in terms of points off turnovers with Bentley losing the ball 17 times and the Owls only nine.

Bentley's next game is next Saturday, at home against Pace.