Both teams were hungry for a win. Each squad wanted a win in the Big Five. It meant something. And they played like it did. In the end each team gave all they had. The University of Pennsylvania team had a little bit more, and defeated Saint Joseph’s 73 – 61 in front of 8,501 at the Palestra. The victory was the first Big Five win for the Penn senior class.
“I really didn’t want to go out of here with a zero on my Big Five record,” said Penn Senior Forward Jack Eggleston. “This win is very significant.”
The little bit more for Penn was a career-high 27 points by Tyler Bernardini. The senior guard made 9 of 19 shots, and was 5 of 10 from beyond the arc. Bernardini is starting to show the scoring skill he did as a freshman, but his focus is on the present not the past.
“I don’t think about the player that I was, I am trying to focus on being the best that I can be,” said Bernardini. “If we buy into the process, that what it is really all about.”
With the issue in doubt in the second half Bernardini would come up with three big three-point shots to answer each Hawk charge. Saint Joseph’s took the lead 42 – 41. Penn regained the lead on a Bernardini trey with 13:05 remaining. With the score tied at 44 another Bernardini three at the 12:09 put the Quakers back in front. Saint Joseph’s fought back to tie the game at 51, but another three from the Carlsbad, CA native at 8:30 gave Penn a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the game. The Quakers gave up just two more field goals in the game closing it out with a 12 point win.
“Our emphasis was to keep the ball out of the paint, control the perimeter, and close out possessions at the end,” Penn Coach Jermone Allen said about the defensive strategy. “For the most part we did a solid job of that. All in all we had a solid performance defensively.”
The game had 7 ties and 11 lead changes. Penn had the advantage in key statistics in the game; Steals (10 – 4), Points Off Turnovers (13 – 8). and Fast Break Points (10 -4). The Red and Blue was a perfect 15 of 15 from the free throw line, while the Crimson and Gray made 12 of 2o foul shots. Saint Joseph’s did win the battle of the boards 33 – 32 and got 9 offensive rebounds in the second half, but the Hawks committed 15 turnovers to 11 for Penn.
“That turnover number was the biggest of the game,” Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli said.
Junior Guard Zack Rosen scored 17 points and Freshman Guard Miles Cartwright contributed 11 points for Penn. Eggleston scored 8 points, but pulleddown a career-high 15 rebounds.
Saint Joseph’s had 4 double-digit scorers led by Freshman Forward Ronald Roberts with a career-high 14 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Senior Forward Idris Hilliard scored 13, Sophomore Guard Carl Jones contributed 12, and Freshman Guard Darius Quarles put in 11 points.
Penn is 6 – 8 on the season and finished their Big Five slate of games at 1 – 3. The Quakers begin the Ivy League portion of the schedule on January 28 at home against Yale. Coach Allen calls the game as the most important game for Penn because it is their next game.
Saint Joseph’s falls to 5 – 14 for the year, and loses its second Big Five game. There are question marks surrounding the team for which Coach Phil Martelli must find answers.
“There are teaching points about turnovers, about shot selection when the game is tight, and unusal calls, you’ve got to get through to the next play,” said Martelli. “If I could find what would make the light burn brighter, I’d fix it now.”
And at the end of the game, the red and blue streamers hit the floor. It was a fitting ending.
Key Run of the Game
After Bernardini broke a 51 – 51 tie with a three, Penn went on an 11 – 5 run to take a 65 – 56 lead with 3:23 to play. A Rosen three was the last points of the Penn run, and gave them a lead that would grow to 12 points.
Key Stat of the Game
Saint Joseph’s committed 15 turnovers. Penn would score 13 Points Off Turnovers and 10 Fast Break Points. The turnovers turned out to be the key number in the eyes of Martelli.
“That turnover number is the biggest of the game,” Martelli said.
Key Players in the Game
For Saint Joseph’s – Ronald Roberts with a career-high 14 points and 8 rebounds. Roberts had sa fantastic follow-up basket that turned into a 3-Point play that brought Saint Joseph’s to within three at 39 – 36 with 15:55 on the clock.
For Penn – Tyler Bernardini who scored a career-high 27 points making 5 of 10 three pointers. He had three huge threes to give Penn a lead or break ties at critical times in the second half. The outcome may have been much different had he not made those threes.
Point Where the Game Was Decided
Penn got a fast break dunk by Senior Forward Conor Turley to get a 71 – 59 lead at the 37 second mark as the exclamation mark of the game.
Thoughts and Musings
The win ended a Big Five losing streak for Penn. The senior class did not experience a win in the city series until this game, their last Big Five game. The win was important for them, and they celebrated it. Jack Eggleston is from Noblesville, IN, Darren Smith is from Elizabeth, NJ, and Conor Turley is from La Canada, CA. They were not born here, but they grew to appreciate the Big Five. The win was not just a non-league win. It was a Big Five win, and it is something they can build on. Or at the very least remember as they move on to the next phase of their lives.
To those from the area pay heed to Martelli’s words.
“Cold night, a Saturday night in Philadelphia, playing in the best building for college basketball in the whole country. Cherish that!”
Written By: Glenn Papazian