FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Ludlowe coach John Dailey had a full agenda after his bye on Friday provided a few extra days of practice.
High up on the list was helping Ian Bentley get his rhythm back.
The 6-6 Bentley gives the Falcons a dynamic few teams possess. He is as comfortable out on the perimeter as in the paint, and because he can score in so many different ways it affects the way opponents defend not only Bentley, but his teammates. And then there is Bentley’s defense.
But Bentley has admittedly struggled the past few weeks, though Ludlowe has been able to win without his A-game.
“My shot was kind of off the last couple of games so I really focused on that in practice during the week,” Bentley said. “Getting in a groove really helped for this game. It gave me confidence with my outside shots.”
Bentley finished with a game high 19 points — 11 in the second quarter — and added 13 rebounds tonight to lead the Falcons to an impressive 49-35 win over New Canaan.
“He played well against Danbury, 16 points, but it was a very quiet 16 points,” Dailey said, referring to Ludlowe’s previous outing, six days ago. “Before that, since the holiday tournament, I wouldn’t say he disappears because he changes the game in so many different ways, but offensively he hasn’t played up to his potential. So we challenged him. When he plays like that he’s very good.”
Bentley made a pair of 3-point shots and scored on several layups, finishing good looks from James Bourque and Rowan Keesser.
“He can drag you out,” Dailey said. “He can shoot it so he can drag out a big, but he changes so many shots at the rim. When he rebounds the basketball like that and gets it going offensively he’s really such a plus for us.”
Ludlowe (8-2, 4-2 FCIAC) had its biggest lead of the first half before Colin Russo hit a 3-point shot to draw the Rams within 26-23 at halftime. The Falcons pitched a third quarter shutout, outscoring New Canaan, 10-0, and led by as many as 20 points.
“It felt like we played well in the first half even though the score didn’t show it,” Dailey said. “We wanted to push it and score that way because we know New Canaan plays very good defense in the half court. I thought we ran good offense in the third quarter and defended, limiting them to one shot.”
New Canaan (8-4, 5-3) had won two straight games since leading scorer Alex Gibbens suffered a hip injury. Tonight was an indication that on some nights it is going to be a struggle to find points, though coach Danny Melzer said this was not a self-inflicted wound.
“That’s a tribute to Ludlowe. I was very impressed with them,” Melzer said. “Very well coached, well prepared and they were so physical. We got bullied tonight. By and large all season long we’ve been the more physical team but not tonight. They deserve the credit for it. They forced us to beat them on the outside and we couldn’t do it tonight.”
Russo and Brandon Sechan scored eight points apiece to lead the Rams.
Bourque scored 13 points and did a superb job running the Falcons’ offense.
“James got to the rim a few times tonight,” Dailey said. “Sometimes it doesn’t show up in the stat sheets with his points and assists but he handles the ball out there. He’s the floor general, he doesn’t turn it over often. He plays good defense. He’s our glue guy.”
A win over another playoff contender was especially big because Ludlowe has to come back and travel Thursday to Staples.
They will do so led by a top scorer coming off a confidence boost.
“I just think I can blow by any defender honestly,” Bentley said. “That has been my mentality all year. Just help my teammates out by getting to the hoop. That worked well tonight.”