PHILADELPHIA, January 21, 2012 – It was a Big Five game weekend at the Palestra between two of the staunchest members of the city series. The University of Pennsylvania Quakers owned the early part of the game. But it was a Big Five game. In the end Penn had to withstand a furious rally by the Saint Joseph’s Hawks and won 84 – 80. The Quakers were led by their senior guard duo of Tyler Bernardini and Zack Rosen whose experience helped Penn hold off the Saint Joseph’s charge.
“We expected to win the game,” said Rosen. “We blew a large lead, but our guys made plays down the stretch. We turned the ball over way too much against the press. It’s a good win for us.”
Wanting to throw the first punch Penn started the game scoring 12 of the first 18 points of the game in the first five minutes. Saint Joseph’s came back to tie, then Penn answered with a run. This was a recurring theme in the game. The Quakers held a 44 – 32 halftime lead finish the half with a 12 – 3 run.n The Red and Blue took advantage of 7 turnovers taking a 12 – 0 edge in fast break points. In the second half Penn would increase their lead to 23 points at 62 – 39 with 12:13 to play. Penn looked unbeatable, and were enjoying how the game was going.
“Making shots is contagious,” said Bernardini. “We were enjoying everyone’s success. One guy starts hitting shots, another guy is hitting shots, it’s a party out there. That’s the way we want to be. We want to make shots, play defense, and enjoy it. That’s the best part about basketball. It’s the Palestra, it’s winter, it’s snowing, there’s no better place to be than out on the court playing.”
The party was at its zenith. Saint Joseph’s wanted to join the festivities. The Hawks went to a full court pressure defense that resulted in 11 second half turnovers by Penn. The lead began to shrink. Sophomore guard Langston Galloway was getting to the foul line, and Junior guard Carl Jones was hitting shots from beyond the arc. A Jones three-point play cut the Penn lead to 68 – 64 with 4:47 to play. The crowd was alive. It was a Big Five game.
Rosen began to reassert himself scoring 7 of the next 9 points for Penn. His jump shot at the two-minute mark went in with one second on the shot clock. That basket got the lead back to 10 points. Saint Joseph’s was not finished. The Hawks responded with 4 consecutive three-point baskets. Three were turned in by Galloway, one by Freshman guard Chris Wilson. However, Penn made 8 of 10 free throws down that stretch to keep the lead and get the win. Saint Joseph’s won the second half 48 – 40.
Penn Coach Jerome Allen was pleased with the victory. As a fan he enjoyed the game. From a coaches perspective, the lost lead is a concern. He sees issues to be addressed. “They should have a better focus, a little more understanding, a little more poise,” said Allen. “Make simple basketball plays. It seemed like everybody was in a rush, the ball was like a hot potato. Defensively, you can’t give up almost fifty points in a half in Division I basketball and expect to win a basketball game.”
“You try to have a balance between playing basketball and still keep your foot on the gas,” said Bernardini. “We didn’t do what we were supposed to do, and that’s something we have to learn. They’re talented (Saint Joseph’s) and made a lot of big plays. We were fortunate to get a win.”
Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli lamented that his team did not perform better over the course of the game.
“You get a chance to play on a Saturday night in the Palestra, you have to embrace that,” said Martelli. “I can’t say that we embraced that for forty minutes.”
Bernardini led Penn with 24 points and 6 rebounds. Rosen added 16 points and handed out 8 assists. Senior forward Rob Belcore and Sophomore guard Miles Cartwright each scored 12 points.
Galloway had a career-high 32 points masking 10 of 14 field goal attempts, 6 of 9 from beyond the arc. Jones scored 16 points, 10 in the second half. Sophomore center C.J. Aiken scored 13 points, added 7 rebounds, and blocked 4 shots. Wilson scored 11 points.
Penn is on a three-game winning streak. The Quakers return to Ivy League play meeting arch-rival Princeton on January 30 at the Palestra.
Saint Joseph’s is on a three-game losing streak. The Hawks look to right the ship on January 25 hosting league leading Dayton. Martelli knows the team needs to turn it around returning the early season form.
“It’s not one thing, we’ve lost our way,” Martelli said.
“We have to play better. Any synonym you want to use, use it. We just have to play better. We’re not playing well right now.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian