MANCHESTER, N.H. – Hitting an amazing 10-of-11 shots with six three-pointers, senior guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn, Mass./Lynn HS) erupted for a career-high 35 points, including his 1,000th, as Bentley University improved to 3-0 with a 102-96 win over Saint Anselm College in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball Wednesday evening at Stoutenburgh Gym. It was the conference opener for the Falcons and the season-debut for the home team.
Bentley, owner of seven straight wins dating back to last season, also received 23 points from sophomore forward Tyler McFarland (Rockport, Maine/Camden Hills HS) and a double-double (13 points, ten rebounds) from junior forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy).
The Falcons, who trailed by as many as 16 in the first half, erupted for 62 points after intermission on 61 percent shooting. It was the third consecutive game they've scored at least 90, a feat last achieved by a Bentley team in 1996.
Saint Anselm came out of the gate on fire, using an early 16-2 blitz to open a 21-8 lead after only seven minutes. Sophomore forward Mike McCahey (Clarkstown, N.Y.) led that charge with three triples and 11 points. The Hawk lead eventually peaked at 36-20 with under six minutes left in the opening half.
Bentley, plagued by turnovers and poor outside shooting early, came alive in the final minutes of the half, scoring as many points during the final 5:30 as it did in the first 14:30. That 20-9 spurt to end the opening half cut the Falcon deficit to five, 45-40.
That strong finish to the first included nine by Grassa, a pair of three-pointers and a three-point play the traditional way, The remaining 11 points were split between four different players.
The momentum carried over in the second with Bentley resuming play with an 8-2 run, including four by McFarland, to take its first lead since the game's early minutes, 48-47 with 17:39. Junior forward Chris Santo (Cherry Hill, N.J.) quickly answered for Saint Anselm and the Hawks maintained the lead until less than seven minutes remained.
Down four points as the clock moved under seven, Bentley ran off the next seven points to take a lead it would never give up. Junior guard JP Koury (Red Bank, N.J./CBA) began the charge with a turn-around jumper, but missed the opportunity to make it a three-point play when he missed the free throw. That ended his school-record streak of 36 straight makes, dating back to last season.
Grassa followed with a foul-line jumper to tie the game at 77 and after a Koury steal, sophomore guard Alex Furness (Wells, Maine/Wells HS) made the second of two free throws with 6:08 for a 78-77 lead. Two free throws by Grassa with 5:30 on the clock capped the run.
Following a Saint Anselm basket, Grassa buried his fifth and sixth threes for an 86-77 advantage. The first came from the top of the key and the second from about 25 feet on the left wing.
Two free throws and a drive to the basket by McFarland pushed the lead to nine, 90-81, and Bentley held off the Hawks by making nine of 12 free throws in the final 41 seconds.
Grassa, whose previous best was 29 points, became Bentley's 49th 1,000-point scorer when he connected on a top-of-the-key three with 10:53 to play. With his six-of-seven effort from downtown, he's an incredible 14 of 18 from beyond the arc this season. The 35 points, which included 9-of-9 from the foul line, was the most by a Falcon since Tim Forbes put up 35 in 2005.
McFarland, in addition to scoring 23, finished with eight rebounds and three blocks. Koury was Bentley's fourth double figure scorer, finishing with a dozen along with three steals.
McCahey led six in doubles for Saint Anselm, finishing with 25 points.
Bentley finished at 54 percent overall and had a huge advantage at the line, finishing 23 of 33 as compared to 10-of-14 for the home team. The Falcons were a plus-eight on the boards, 46-38, and committed only seven turnovers over the game's final 30 minutes, after giving it away ten times early.
The Falcons will be back at home on Sunday afternoon for a 2 pm non-conference encounter with 3-0 Holy Family University.