NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – With freshman forward Trevena Bennett (Union, N.J./St. Bernard's Gill HS) and sophomore forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy) carrying the scoring load for the second straight game, Bentley University vaulted out to a 35-13 halftime lead and cruised to a 72-57 win over Post University in the Northeast-10/CACC Women's Basketball Challenge Saturday afternoon at Merrimack College.
After the two combined for 35 in a season-opening win over Goldey-Beacom College Friday night, Bennett scored 16, with five three-pointers, and Gemma followed with her second straight double-double, 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Bentley, the defending NCAA Division II national champion, ran its winning streak to 37 games but not before seeing the Eagles reduce a 33-point lead to 11 with a little more than four minutes to play.
The Falcons closed out the first half with a 20-2 explosion, holding 0-2 Post without a field goal for the final ten-and-a-half minutes. That sent coach Barbara Stevens' team, which is ranked number five in Division II preseason, into the break sporting a commanding 35-13 bulge. Nine different Falcons scored in the opening half with Gemma topping the last with eight points.
Bentley continued its dominance during the first seven-and-a-half minutes of the second, a 17-6 spurt over the first five minutes boosting the lead to 33, 52-19. That run included a pair of threes from Bennett and one from junior guard Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan HS).
Turnovers plagued the Falcons throughout, but especially in the second half. They gave the ball away an incredible 33 times, including 20 in the second half when they were outscored 24-5 in points off turns.
Midway through the second half, Bentley's lead stood at 29, 59-30. The Falcons went more than five-and-a-half minutes without a basket, a stretch in which they were 0-for-7 with six turnovers while Post was scoring 16 unanswered.
The Bentley drought finally ended with a Bennett free throw with 5:21 left, but it would be another 26 seconds before the team finally scored from the field, a pull-up jumper in the lane from senior guard Kelsey Mattice (Cicero, N.Y./Cicero North Syracuse HS) that made it 62-48.
Following a Post three, Bentley regained control with a 7-1 run capped by Bennett's ninth triple in two games. She connected from the left wing with 2:13 to play to make it 69-52.
Bennett, who also had four rebounds and one steal, shot five of eight from beyond the arc. Kluge provided nine points, six rebounds and three assists, and sophomore Brittany Gregory (Fishkill, N.Y./John Jay HS) helped out with eight points and ten rebounds off the bench.
Bentley outshot the Eagles 50-34 percent and crushed Post on the boards, 53-23. The Falcons also had a substantial advantage at the line (15-26 to 9-15), but a dozen more turns helped make the game relatively close late.
Jacquelynne Pugh led Post with 14 points and three steals.
Bentley opens Northeast-10 action Wednesday at Assumption College (5:30 pm) and will raise the national championship banner before Saturday's home game with Stonehill College (1:30 pm).