WALTHAM, Mass. – Six-foot-five guard Alex Furness (Wells, Maine/Wells HS) led a strong effort by the freshman class, finishing with 24 points and seven rebounds in his collegiate debut, as the Bentley University men's basketball team opened the season with a 78-71 win over Caldwell College during the Bentley Tip-Off Classic Friday night at the Dana Center.
The Class of 2016 was on the floor for a total of 89 minutes and provided 49 points, on 20-of-33 shooting, and 21 rebounds. Furness finished 10 of 12 from the floor, including three triples and a perfect seven-of-seven inside the arc, and forward Tyler McFarland (Rockport, Maine/Camden Hills HS), his former teammate at Cushing Academy, followed with 14 points and six board, four coming at the offensive end.
After five early lead changes, Bentley embarked on a 26-4 explosion over a span of nine minutes to open a commanding 41-20 lead with 5:19 left in the half. Freshman forward Joe Glynn (Abington/Cardinal Spellman HS) got it started with a three-point play and followed with a put-back to put the Falcons up four, 20-16.
The 11-0 burst continued with baskets from Furness, senior guard Mike Topercer (Scottsdale, Ariz./New Hampton Prep) and freshman guard Shakir Phelps (Linden, N.J./Linden HS). Furness had nine of the 26, and the impressive run was capped with a three from sophomore guard JP Koury (Red Bank, N.J./CBA HS).
Caldwell closed to within 12 at the break, 45-33, as Bentley cooled off after the hot start. The Falcons made 11 of their first 15 field goal attempts, but were just one for eight after the lead hit 21.
Bentley remained in front throughout the second half, but couldn't put the visiting Cougars away as the two teams went into the final five minutes separated by only five points.
Junior guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS) had a quiet night for the most part, with only four points over the first 36 minutes, but he came up big twice when the lead stood at five. He hit a driving lay-up with about three minutes left to push the differential back to seven, 71-64, and buried his only three of the night with 57 seconds on the clock to make it a 76-68 game.
McFarland rebounded a Caldwell miss on the ensuing possession, was fouled, and knocked down both from the stripe to put the Falcons up 10 with 41.1 ticks remaining. In addition to the 14 points, on 6-of-13 shooting, he had six rebounds, a block and a steal.
Grassa, Koury and Glynn each provided nine points, with the latter also claiming six rebounds, and sophomore forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy) chipped in with seven points, six boards, two assists, two blocks and a steal.
Sophomore forward Michael Balkovic (Neptune, N.J.) had a strong game for Caldwell, filling the stat sheet with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
Bentley outshot the visitors 48-44 percent, finished with a 40-28 edge in the paint, and committed only 12 turnovers. Caldwell, down 18-6 in rebounds early, came back to win that category, 39-35.
In the other game, Mike Clifford muscled his way to 28 points and 19 rebounds as Merrimack College topped Dominican College, 81-76.
The tournament continues on Saturday with Bentley taking on Dominican at 8:00 after Merrimack faces Caldwell at 6.