EASTON, Pa. - It was an unlikely group of Penn men's basketball players who provided the catalyst to the Quakers' 78-73 win at Lafayette Wednesday night.
Oh sure, the usual suspects were involved. Zack Rosen scored 24 points and had four assists, becoming the program's all-time leader in that category with 506. Tyler Bernardini scored 17 points and had a team-high seven rebounds, and Miles Cartwright and Rob Belcore had 12 points apiece.
In a lot of ways, though, their play was a mere subplot on Wednesday night.
With just under 16 minutes left in the second half, the Leopards' Jim Mower drained a three-point basket to put the hosts up 47-41. Amazingly, it was Lafayette's seventh straight trey, going back to the first half.
Penn Head Coach Jerome Allen had seen enough.
Out came the five starters. In went Fran Dougherty. And classmate Dau Jok (5 career points). And freshmen Camryn Crocker (6 minutes in the last 6 games), Simeon Esprit (16 career minutes) and Keelan Cairns (2 previous appearances).
It was a bold move. Boy, did it pay off.
The quintet not only held Lafayette scoreless during more than two minutes on the court, they scored seven points and gave Penn the lead. Crocker was the threat, going to the hole on back-to-back possessions to score five points.
Allen re-inserted the starters, and while the game remained tight the rest of the way, the lesson was learned without ultimate damage.
Penn (7-8) was down 59-57 when Rosen -- of course -- pushed the Quakers into a lead they would not relinquish. He brought the Red and Blue level with a jumper, then put his team ahead with a startling three-pointer deep beyond the top of the circle with 6:18 left.
Belcore scored twice after that -- the first on a nice backdoor feed from Rosen to tie the assist record -- to put Penn up 66-61, but Ryan Willen sandwiched four free throws around a Cartwright turnover to make the score 66-65 with four minutes to go.
Bernardini pushed the lead to four with a trey, with the assist going to Rosen for the record. (By the way, who held the record previously, at 505? Why, that would be Coach Allen, of course!) Then he fed Cartwright for another trey and a 72-65 lead, and it looked like this game might finally be put away with less than three minutes to go.
Never count out a team that can shoot like the Leopards. With the shot clock nearly expired, Mower drained a trey with a Penn defender in his face -- it was a shot you can only tip your hat to -- and then after each team turned the ball over Nick Petkovich drained a bomb from the left corner that made the score 72-71 with less than a minute to go. (Lafayette finished the night with 11 three-point baskets.)
Penn did what it needed to do, got the ball to Rosen. He doesn't often miss from the foul line, and he didn't when it mattered. His first two makes were almost immediately cancelled out by a Bob Delaney layup, but his third and fourth makes were the difference when Lafayette missed two three-pointers that could have tied the game. Bernardini rebounded the second of those misses, was fouled, and drained his two charity shots to put the game out of reach.
Mower finished the night with 20 points for Lafayette, which fell to 5-10, while Willen scored 19 points and led all players with 10 rebounds.
Penn faces only Philadelphia Big 5 and Ivy League opponents the rest of the way, starting with La Salle on Tuesday night at The Palestra. The Explorers figure to be a formidable opponent, as they defeated Xavier Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
Penn-Lafayette Game Notes: Penn improved to 40-5 all-time against Lafayette, and won in Easton for the first time in three games ... Penn shot 19-of-21 from the foul line and is 28-of-30 (.933) over the last two games ... Lafayette took just 46 shots, tying the season low by a Penn opponent ... Penn had 22 rebounds, a season low, while Lafayette had 29, the low by a Penn opponent ... Lafayette made 11 three-point shots, tying the season high by a Penn opponent ... Senior Zack Rosen became Penn's all-time assist leader; with four in the game, he now has 91 this season and 506 for his career ... For the third time this season, Rosen did not commit a turnover ... Rosen also had 24 points, his eighth game with 20 or more this season but first since he had 29 vs. Delaware on Dec. 7 ... Rosen led Penn in scoring for the 11th time in 15 games this season ... Rosen went 4-of-4 from the foul line, and is now 51-of-53 from the charity stripe in Penn's last 11 contests, with streaks of 25 and 20 consecutive made during the current span ... Senior Tyler Bernardini scored 17 points, his 12th double-figure scoring game ... Bernardini also had seven rebounds to lead Penn, the ninth time he has led the Quakers in that category this season ... Senior Rob Belcore had 12 points, the fifth time in seven games he has reached double figures in the scoring column ... Prior to this run, his last double-figure outing came during the 2009-10 season ... Sophomore Miles Cartwright had 12 points, his second straight double-digit scoring game, fifth in the last seven contests, and seventh this season ... Freshman Camryn Crocker scored five points, a season/career high ... Sophomore Dau Jok grabbed two rebounds, a career best ... Sophomore Steve Rennard collected a career-high two steals ... Freshman Henry Brooks tied a season/career high with two assists ... RECORD BOOK WATCH: Senior guard Zack Rosen has 1,412 career points which puts him 11th on Penn's all-time scoring list. (Mark Zoller is 10th, with 1,429 points from 2004-07.) ... Bernardini has 1,307 career points which puts him 15th on Penn's all-time scoring list. (Tony Price is 14th, with 1,322 points from 1977-79.) ... Rosen has played 3,511 career minutes which is sixth all-time. (Ibrahim Jaaber is fifth, with 3,569 minutes, while Jerome Allen is fourth with 3,570.) ... Rosen has 188 career three-point field goals which is sixth all-time, while Bernardini is tied for seventh with Coach Allen with 178. (Garett Kreitz is fifth, with 199 treys.) ... Rosen has made 374 career foul shots which is seventh all-time. (Current Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky is sixth, with 388 made foul shots.) ... Rosen has started 97 games in his career, eighth all-time. (Koko Archibong is seventh, with 99 starts.) ... Bernardini has 91 career starts which is 10th all-time. (Mark Zoller is ninth, with 94 starts.)