WALTHAM, Mass. – Senior All-America forward Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) buried a career-best three trifectas and finished with a game-high 25 points as Bentley University, the number one-ranked Division II women's basketball team in the country, stayed unbeaten with an 83-66 win over Southern Connecticut State in Northeast-10 Conference play Saturday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Battista's 25 points elevated her career total to 1,738 and moved her past Danielle Chaisson '98 into third place on Bentley's all-time scoring list. She trails number two Allison Fay '84 by 54 points and is 62 back of all-time leader Kelly Barker '01.
Bentley, which overcame its biggest deficit of the season (9 points midway through the first half), improved to 14-0 overall (9-0 NE-10) with the victory number 896 for coach Barbara Stevens. Southern Connecticut fell to 6-8 overall and 2-6 in the conference.
Southern scored the game's first seven points and held a 17-8 lead a little more than nine minutes into the contest after the Falcons hit only three of their first 14 shots. Bentley came up empty on its first nine possessions (0-5 from the field, 4 turnovers) and didn't get on the scoreboard until senior forward Caleigh Crowell (Harwich/Worcester Academy) connected from three 4:39 after the opening jump.
With the deficit at 19-12, Bentley ran off 11 unanswered over a span of two-and-a-half minutes to take a 23-19 lead with 6:32 left in the opening half. Senior forward Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/ Worcester Academy) ignited the run with a three-point play and Battista scored the final four with two free throws and a fast-break lay-up.
After the Owls climbed back on top at 32-30, Battista tallied the final five points of the half to send the Falcons into the break up three, 35-32. Her three from the left wing with 1:01 on the clock put her team back on top to stay, and she completed the first-half scoring with a jumper with six seconds left.
Southern got within one with 16:05 to play, 43-42, on a baseline jumper from junior guard Sydni Lester (Teaneck, N.J.) and had four chances to reclaim the lead while Bentley was mired in a dry spell. However, the Owls came up empty with two turnovers and two missed shots.
A three from the right wing by Crowell with 14:18 gave Bentley its first points in three-and-a-half minutes and a Battista trifecta from the top of the key made it a seven-point spread, 49-42 with 13:33 to play.
Later in the half, a Crowell put-back ignited a 6-0 run that produced the first double-digit lead of the afternoon, 60-49 with 9:34 left.
Southern closed to within six with 7:49 left, but the Bentley D allowed only three more baskets the rest of the way, on 14 attempts. That enabled the Falcons to open the game up, closing with a 19-8 run.
Battista, in addition to 25 points, finished with nine rebounds and three assists. She was perfect on her three attempts from downtown, shot 9 of 17 overall and made all four of her free throws.
Four teammates joined her in doubles, including grad student Courtney Finn (Winthrop/ Winthrop HS). She scored 15, handed out four assists and came within a rebound of a third straight double-double. Senior point guard Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./Central HS) followed with 14, including a 12-for-16 performance from the line, and seven assists.
Crowell and Bruglera each helped out with 12 points, with Crowell also providing five rebounds in her 15-minute stint off the bench.
Junior guard Mariah Hankton (Upper Marlboro, Md.) led Southern with 16 points and sophomore Jackie Beathea (Annandale, Va.) recorded her eighth double-double, finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Field goal shooting and turnovers were very similar, but Bentley had a huge advantage at the line (22 of 29 as compared to 5 of 7), a plus-14 rebound margin (50-36) and two more three-pointers (7-5).
Bentley will be back in action Wednesday when it hosts Adelphi University at 5:30 pm.