WALTHAM, Mass. – The Bentley University women's basketball team has won its last seven this season, including 70-50 at St. Michael's College Wednesday, and its last 14 home games, dating back to last January.
The Falcons, ranked 19th in the D2SIDA media poll after improving to 11-3 overall, will look to extend those streaks and stay unbeaten in the Northeast-10 when they host Southern Connecticut State on Barbara Stevens Court Saturday at 1:30 pm. Fans can watch live on the NE10 Digital Network.
Southern Connecticut is 7-7 overall and 1-5 Northeast-10 after dropping three straight, including 86-43 to UMass and 77-54 to unbeaten Adelphi. It's been an up-and-down season for the Owls, who had streaks of four straight wins, four losses and three wins before the current slide.
Bentley, which leads the NE10 Northeast Division by a game over Saint Anselm as the schedule turns to crossover play for the next three weeks, limited St. Michael's to 29 percent shooting, including only 16 of 60 inside the arc, in Wednesday's win.
Senior center Monica Viapiano (Holden/Holy Name HS) dominated at the offensive end with a career-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting. She scored ten points in the opening quarter, helping Bentley to a 21-11 lead, and had another nine in the third quarter. The win was the 1,050th in the amazing career of Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach Barbara Stevens.
Viapiano leads the Falcons for the season, averaging 14.4 points and 6.6 rebounds with a .554 field goal percentage that ranks fourth in the conference.
Sophomore guard Kari Brekke (Appleton, Wisc,/Appletown North HS) is next on the scoring list for the Falcons, checking in at 12.2. Over the last six, she's averaged 14 points and made 14 of 27 three-pointers.
Stevens' usual starting five also includes graduate forward Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England), junior guard Katie Meriggioli (Waunakee, Wisc./Edgewood HS) and freshman guard Ella Thompson (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove HS). Meriggioli and Lewis are two of the team's top rebounders, and Bentley has lost only once during the ten games since Thompson was inserted into the lineup.
Bentley is sixth in the Northeast-10 in both scoring and defense. The Falcons put up 67.4 points a game and limit the opponents to 59.1
Junior forward Jessica Fressle and senior guard Imani Wheeler lead Southern in scoring, averaging 14.2 and 11.8 points, respectively. Senior forward Kiana Steinauer was off to a great start to the season (17.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG, .630 FG in 4 games) but has been sidelined since the third week of November.
Southern forces more than 18 turnovers a game with the Owls third in the NE10 in steals at 9.4 a game. Wheeler leads the conference in takeaways with a conference-high 45 steals, and has at least one in every game.
As a team, Southern is 11th in the NE10 in scoring, averaging 60.1, and ninth in points allowed (61.9). Coach Kate Lynch's team shoots .362 overall, .315 from three and .714 at the line.
The Falcons have won six straight, and 14 of the last 16, against the Owls. That includes a 69-56 victory last season that included 21 points and nine rebounds by Meriggioli.
Two road matinees are on tap for Bentley next week with the Falcons playing a 1:00 game at New Haven Tuesday and a 3:30 at Pace next Saturday (note change of time).