WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) -Streak? What streak?
After 52 straight regular-season wins, the Bentley College men's basketball team is a victory away from breaking a 63-year-old Division II record. But coach Jay Lawson's players didn't even know about it until they tied the mark this week.
Lawson says he won't even mention the record to his team before Bentley takes on St. Michael's on Saturday.
``That doesn't mean anything, honestly,'' he said. ``In the end, athletes and coaches want to win championships and this doesn't have anything to do with trying to do that. In fact, it will get in the way if we think it's something important.''
The mark Bentley tied was set in 1945 by Langston University in Oklahoma. A win Saturday would not only set a new mark, but bring Bentley, the top-ranked team in Division II, one win away from its second straight undefeated regular season.
Its last loss came in the NCAA quarterfinals was last season to Winona State.
Bentley, located in Waltham, is better known for its business program than basketball, even though it is a perennial conference power and has had 13 straight winning seasons.
Opposing coaches said the team has put its run together by relying on tough defense and versatile, unselfish players.
``They have incredible team chemistry, guys know their roles. It's like a dream for a coach,'' said St. Michael's coach Tom O'Shea, who hasn't discussed the streak with his team and isn't sure he will.
``I prefer not to like the people I'm playing against,'' said Max Good, coach of rival Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I. ``But I do respect their coaches, I do respect their players.''
Bryant was the last team to beat Bentley (25-0) in the regular season, with an 88-78 double overtime win on Feb. 18, 2006. The streak started three days later, when Bentley beat American International College 69-57.
Bryant also gave Bentley some of its biggest scares during the current run. On Feb. 2, Bryant led by a point in the closing seconds, but Bentley guard Yusuf Abdul-Ali went the length of the floor for a layup with 1.6 seconds left for a 69-68 win.
Exactly a year earlier, Abdul-Ali hit a jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining to give Bentley a 78-76 win.
Bentley has had other close calls this year, including when Franklin Pierce missed a game-winning layup.
``I think those games help us. I think it makes us realize how close we are to not having the season we're having right now,'' forward Nate Fritsch said. ``It makes us prepare for each opponent just as hard as we did the one before them.''
Fritsch, a senior, is one of four Bentley players averaging double figures in points per game (13.2), with guards Abdul-Ali (11.0), Lew Finnegan (14.5) and Jason Westrol (14.4) the others.
No one on the roster is over 6-foot-7, but players such as the 6-4 Finnegan can play down low or on the perimeter.
Lawson said Fritsch might be his best player, and he's coming off the bench because Lawson is limiting his minutes because of a left knee injury. The others were all point guards in high school, and skilled at running a ``free-flow'' offense that pushes the fastbreak whenever possible and relies on good passing and good decisions.
They never call plays and they never have problems with one guy getting too enamored with his jump shot, Lawson said.
Fritsch said the team hasn't gotten caught up in its success. It's hard to when crowds average 723 fans a game.
``It's Division II basketball,'' Fritsch said. ``It's not like we're dealing with national notoriety. It's not like we're watching ourselves on TV.''
The odds seem good for Bentley on Saturday in Colchester, Vt. St. Michael's is 7-17 and lost to Bentley 78-46 earlier this month. If his team does win, Lawson concedes the streak is going to be a nice thing to talk about, eventually.
``I do think it will be a wonderful memory for these guys to say, 'Wow, I was part of something that broke a 50-year record,' `` Lawson said. ``Or whatever it is.''

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