WALTHAM, Mass. - The Saint Michael's College women's basketball team used a late 7-0 run to grab the lead then hold off defending national champion Bentley University, 64-62, on national television on Saturday in Northeast-10 Conference play in the Dana Athletic Center.
The Purple Knights, who entered the day tied with Bentley and two others for the fifth spot in the NE-10 Northeast Division, are now 11-12 overall and 6-12 in the league. The Falcons slipped to 10-14 and 5-13. The top five teams from the NE-10's two divisions make the postseason, and three games remain. After the day's action, Saint Michael's is alone in fifth, as the other three teams all lost.
In what is believed to be the first live, nationally-televised sporting event in Saint Michael's history, the Purple Knights earned their second regular-season sweep ever of Bentley during one of eight CBS Sports Network NCAA Division II National TV Game of the Week broadcasts in 2014-15. The Purple and Gold's victory was its seventh ever at Dana Athletic Center, but its second against the host Falcons. Saint Michael's won three of its last four games this year since a 1-7 stretch.
Senior Maggie Sabine (Litchfield, Maine/Oak Hill/Central Maine CC) led all scorers with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds for Saint Michael's, also hitting all four free throw attempts. Sophomore Indira Evora (Somerville, Mass./Somerville) notched 16 points and nine boards, while junior Makenzie Burud (Red Hook, N.Y./Coleman Catholic) totaled 14 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. She knocked down three three-pointers, and classmate Megan Gaudreau (Brooklyn, Conn./Pomfret School) buried a pair. First-year Tomi Akinpetide (Sydney, Australia/Rice Memorial) recorded seven points and six rebounds as a reserve. The Purple Knights had only two turnovers in the second half, when it shot 4-of-9 from three-point range. The contest featured 19 lead changes and 12 ties.
Senior Kelsey Mattice (Cicero, N.Y./Cicero North Syracuse) paced Bentley with 16 points and three assists, while first-year Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus) notched 13 points and four helpers. Classmate Kristin Brown (Poulsbo, Wash./North Kitsap) had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and sophomore Jen Gemma (Milton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy) pulled down 15 rebounds while scoring eight points and blocking two shots.
After trailing 50-42 with fewer than 12 minutes remaining, the Purple Knights embarked on a 12-4 run to knot the contest. Evora netted five in the middle of the run, including as she drove the lane to begin a three-point play after all five Bentley defenders lost track of her, and Burud hit two free throws one possession before canning a tying three, making it 54-54 with 8:31 to go. The game's final three lead changes occurred in the closing 5:58. After Brown put Bentley back on top 56-54 with a lay-up at 7:41, Burud made a freebie and Sabine put the Purple Knights ahead with a lay-in off a dish from Burud, who drove the lane to draw defenders before passing.
Bentley scored twice during an ensuing 33-second span to go ahead 60-57, but Burud banked in a tying three-pointer at 4:29 before canning the go-ahead triple on the game's next basket 2:09 later. With Bentley in possession and a little more than a minute remaining, Burud forced a jump ball, with possession going to the visitors. Saint Michael's was unable to convert on its next possession, but Evora pulled the rebound of a Falcon miss and made a freebie at 23.1 seconds to make it 64-60. Mattice scored with 15.1 ticks left to produce a two-point game, and Bentley had a chance to tie or win following a Purple Knight missing the front end of a 1-and-1, but Evora grabbed the board of a final miss just before the buzzer.
In an opening half that featured 15 lead changes and nine ties, neither squad led by more than three points. After Evora buried a three-pointer at 14:51, Bentley countered with six straight points, as Brown provided the first four. The Falcon lead was short-lived, as Sabine hit a jumper at 13:04 before Akinpetide's two free throws put the Purple Knights ahead 17-16 51 seconds later. A quick 6-2 spurt by the hosts put them back on top, as first-year Cassie Smith's (Edison, N.J./Metuchen) lay-up at 8:16 created a 24-21 contest before the teams exchanged seven leads in the closing 4:45.
Evora sandwiched two go-ahead buckets around a Smith hoop, including scooping the ball off glass to put her team in front 27-26 with 3:51 left, and Sabine later hit two freebies to make it 29-28 in her team's favor. Bentley responded with the next three points, but Akinpetide hit a pair from the charity stripe with 1:14 remaining before canning a go-ahead freebie at 46 seconds. With 1.7 ticks left, junior Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan) hit a free throw, and the teams headed into the locker room tied at 32. The Purple Knights held a 25-15 rebounding advantage by intermission, when Evora led all scorers with 10 points.
Four more lead changes and three ties occurred in the second stanza, with Bentley scoring six of the first eight points to nab a 38-34 edge at 15:51 on Gemma's put-back to provide the largest lead for either team to that point. Gaudreau responded with a three-pointer just 16 seconds later before the Falcons slowly built their advantage to eight, using a 12-5 run to push the lead to 50-42 with 11:43 remaining.
The Purple Knights host Assumption College on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Saint Michael's trailed the Greyhounds by two games for third place in the NE-10 Northeast Division.