WALTHAM, Mass. -- A quartet of fourth-year players, all honored before the game during Senior Day activities, combined for 58 points, 22 rebounds and 11 assists as the Bentley University men's basketball team remained in sole possession of first place in the Northeast-10 with an 83-74 victory over Southern New Hampshire University Saturday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Senior guard Tom Dowling (Rockville Centre, N.Y./South Side HS) led the way with a season-best 21 points, 11 coming in the final 4:30 after the visiting Penmen had shaved a 22-point Falcon lead to four, 66-62.
Senior forward Brian Tracey (Bow Mar, Colo./Heritage HS) followed with 18 points , which elevated him to 18th on Bentley's all-time scoring list with 1,396 points, and eight rebounds. Grad student Mike Quinn (Oakdale, Conn./Montville HS) broke the Bentley career record for minutes played (finishing two shy of 4,000) during a 15-point, five-rebound, five-assist, zero-turnover effort. Senior post Joe Fremeau (Manchester, N.H./Central HS) also played a role with five rebounds, three assists and four points.
The win snapped a two-game slide and boosted Bentley to 17-6 overall, including 15-4 in the NE-10. With three games left, the Falcons lead both American International and Stonehill by one game in the battle for the conference title. Saint Anselm, which had also been tied for second, dropped to fourth after losing at Franklin Pierce.
Bentley vaulted out of the gate, taking a 14-4 lead following a quick eight points by Quinn. With the lead at five, the Falcons used a 24-7 explosion to open a commanding 22-point bulge, 43-21, with a little more than two minutes left in the opening half. A strong finish by the Penmen reduced the spread between the two clubs to 15 (44-29) at the break.
Tracey led the Falcons in the opening half with 13 points, and freshman guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS) provided a spark off the bench with 10. Each buried two of their team's seven first-half three-pointers.
Southern New Hampshire, down 20 after two Fremeau free throws and a Tracey triple opened the second half scoring, battled back and eventually had it down to a four-point differential, 66-62, when senior forward Cory Vejraska (Alachua, Fla.) made a lay-up with 5:23 left. SNHU had a chance to get closer at that juncture, but misfired on a three.
Dowling restored the lead to six, 68-62, with 4:20 with a fall-away jumper in the lane. However, two Penmen three-pointers, one each from sophomore Greg DeSantis (Trumbull, Conn.) and junior Lucas Croteau (Rochester, N.H.), made it a one-point game, 69-68, with 3:25 to play.
Dowling again answered, nailing a three from out top with just over three minutes remaining, putting the score at 72-68. Southern New Hampshire used a basket from junior Troy Stapleton (Rahway, N.J.) to get within two, but following a Falcon missed shot, squandered a chance to tie by turning the ball over with 2:06 left.
Dowling made it hurt by canning a three from the top of the key with 1:43 left, and after a steal from sophomore teammate Greg Jacques (Brockton/St. Sebastian's HS), sank two from the line with 1:09 on the clock to make it a three-possession game, 77-70. Six more Falcon free throws, including four by Quinn, helped lock up the win.
Dowling's second straight game with 20-plus points saw him make seven of ten shots overall, two of three triples and five of six from the line. He also contributed four rebounds, three steals and a couple steals.
Vejraska led four double-figure scorers for Southern New Hampshire (10-13, 6-13 NE-10), finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Both teams shot about 44 percent, but Bentley had an 11-8 edge from outside the three-point line and had a big advantage at the line. The Falcons were 20 of 26 on free throws while the Penmen took only 11, making eight.
Bentley will host UMass-Lowell Wednesday at 7:30 pm in the final Dana Center appearance of the regular season.
At Waltham, Mass. (Dana Center)
BENTLEY 83, SO. NEW HAMPSHIRE 74
SO. NEW HAMPSHIRE (10-13, 6-13 NE10) -- Cory Vejraska 5-12 3-4 14; Craig Marriro 6-10 1-2 13; Tory Stapleton 5-7 0-0 11; Lucas Croteau 4-12 0-0 11; Greg DeSantis 3-9 0-0 8; Josh Morgan-Green 3-6 0-0 7; Marcus Matthews 2-5 2-3 6; Billy Marsden 1-3 2-2 4; Nikola Canic 0-0 0-0 0; Alex Carmona 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 29-66 8-11 74.
BENTLEY (17-6, 15-4 NE-10) -- Tom Dowling 7-10 5-6 21; Brian Tracey 7-14 1-2 18; Mike Quinn 4-9 5-6 15; Jasper Grassa 4-9 2-2 13; Greg Jacques 2-6 0-2 5; Dan O'Keefe 1-3 3-4 5; Joe Fremeau 1-3 2-2 4; Sam Leclerc 0-4 2-2 2; Kevin Kettl 0-0 0-0 0; Mike Topercer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-58 20-26 83.
Halftime: B 44-29; 3-point goals--SNH 8-27 (Croteau 3-9; DeSantis 2-8; Vejraska 1-2; Morgan-Green 1-2; Stapleton 1-1; Carmona 0-1; Marsden 0-2; Matthews 0-1; Marriro 0-1), B 11-29 (Grassa 3-8; Tracey 3-6; Dowling 2-3; Quinn 2-5; Jacques 1-4; Leclerc 0-1; O'Keefe 0-2). Fouled out--Stapleton. Rebounds--SNH 35 (Marriro 12), B 37 (Tracey 8). Assists--SNH 13 (Croteau 4), Bentley 19 (Quinn 5). Total fouls--SNH 24, B 12. Technical fouls--Matthews, Dowling.