WALTHAM, Mass. – Sophomore forward Zach Gilpin (Hampden, Maine/Hampden Academy) scored a career-high 22 points and junior forward Brandon Wheeler (Stamford, Conn./Trinity Catholic HS) put up a 16-point, 15-rebound double-double as Bentley University closed out 2016 with an 81-74 win over the University of Bridgeport in non-conference men's basketball Friday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Bentley turned things midway through the second half, using an 11-3 run to change a three-point deficit into a 62-57 advantage. Junior guard Ryan Richmond (Toronto, Ont./Thomson Collegiate), who matched Wheeler's point production, got the surge going with a jumper in the paint. Wheeler followed with a driving lay-up, giving the Falcons their first lead since the opening half and one they would not relinquish.
After the two teams traded three-pointers, with junior forward Matt Turkington (Cromwell, Conn./Cromwell HS) connecting for the home team, Bentley continued the run with two free throws by Gilpin and an inside basket by Wheeler that followed a Richmond steal. That put the Falcons up five with about nine minutes to play.
Turkington's third three-ball of the day, from the left corner, with 5:56 left made it a three-possession game, 70-63. Senior guard Ferguson Duke (Dartmouth, N.S./Hun School (N.J.)) followed with a pair of free throws and Bentley was up nine, 72-63, as the clock moved under five minutes.
A late 7-1 Bridgeport run, capped by a lay-up from sophomore Rakim Lesane (Coney Island, N.Y.), brought the Purple Knights within three, 77-74, with 57 seconds remaining. However, the Falcons were able to hang on as both Duke and Richmond converted two from the foul stripe in the final 50 seconds.
Bentley (5-7) held the lead for much of the first half, with the advantage peaking at nine (26-17 with 10:24 left), but went into the break down five after the Purple Knights closed with a 13-1 run over the final five minutes. That burst featured three-pointers by both senior guard Montana Mayfield (Philadelphia, Pa.) and junior guard Marc Campbell (Elmont, N.Y.).
Gilpin, who exceeded his previous best by two points, made 9 of 15 shots overall, including a pair of three-pointers. Wheeler, who has 32 rebounds in his last two games, was six of nine from the floor, and Richmond complemented his 16 points with seven boards and a pair of steals.
Turkington, who had only eight points in 19 minutes for the season entering the contest, made the most of his opportunity. He played 17 minutes off the bench and finished with a career-best nine points while making three of five from long distance.
Bentley also received 11 points and four rebounds from Duke.
Six-foot-nine senior Kyle Benjamin (Bronx, N.Y.) led 7-5 Bridgeport with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Lesane followed with 13 points off the bench.
Bentley outshot the visitors 48-39 percent overall and 50-31 percent in the second half. The Falcons also finished with a rebound advantage (40-35) and made five more free throws, finishing 19 of 26 from the stripe.
The Falcons, who were playing only their second game since Dec. 10, have another week off before hosting the University of New Haven next Saturday in their 2017 opener.