PHILADELPHIA - If Tuesday night's win over Lafayette felt eerily similar to last week's win against Campbell...well, that's because it was.
The Quakers jumped out to an early lead on the Leopards, allowed them to get back into the contest, then used a significant run that bridged the two halves and looked like they had put this one away. Instead, Lafayette made a late charge and things got a tad interesting before Penn was able to right the ship and earn an 84-70 victory.
For the second time in as many games, the Quakers had five players score in double figures -- but it was the way those players filled the other columns in the box score that mattered most. Tyler Bernardini led all scorers with 18 points; however, he also had five rebounds and five assists, and hit three three-pointers. Zack Rosen knocked down 17 points (14 in the second half); he also dished off eight assists and snared five boards. Brennan Votel scored 16 points (12 in the first half); he also had seven rebounds; Jack Eggleston scored 14 points; he nearly completed a double-double with nine boards, and also had four helpers. Rob Belcore, making his third start in a row, had 11 points, three rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes. Senior Cameron Lewis was a monster on the boards for the third straight game, grabbing eight rebounds (three on the offensive glass) in just 10 minutes of action.
As a team, Penn (3-7) had 20 assists on its 27 baskets, and shot 48.2 percent from the field including nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc (9 of 23). Even better, Penn was a superb 21-of-24 from the foul line (87.5 percent). Perhaps most significantly, for the first time this year the Quakers outrebounded their opponent -- and it was by a wide margin (41-28).
After allowing Lafayette the game's opening points, Penn reeled off nine straight to gain early momentum. The Leopards clawed back into it, though, and the teams spent several minutes trading baskets. With six minutes left, the score was tied 19-19.
At that point, Lafayette (4-10) got a pair of free throws from Marek Koltun, but Penn got treys from Bernardini and Rosen which started a 12-point run and gave the Red and Blue a 31-21 advantage. The run continued after an Andrew Brown three, as Bernardini hit a pair of free throws and then Eggleston went on a personal five-point streak that ended with a trey at the halftime buzzer. The teams went into the locker rooms with Penn up, 38-24.
The second half was more of the same, as Penn countered a Lafayette deuce with four three-pointers, building up a 50-26 lead before the half was three minutes old. The lead hovered above 20 for several minutes after that, but the Leopards had one final run in them.
With the score 66-44 and just under eight minutes remaining, Lafayette went on a 14-2 run over a four-minute span that was capped by a pair of Michael Gruner foul shots. Suddenly, with 3:55 to play, the score was 68-58, and Penn coach Glen Miller was getting visibly nervous. Rosen hit a pair from the charity stripe, but Ryan Willen responded nearly a minute later with a trey, and the score was 70-61.
However, Eggleston hit a big-three pointer as the shot clock wound down, and then Bernardini rebounded a Brown miss and was fouled. He hit the first of two to put Penn back up 74-61 with 2:08 to play. The Leopards were unable to get closer than 11 after that, as the Quakers made good on their foul shots down the stretch.
Willen finished with 17 points to lead Lafayette, while Brown and Gruner had 12 apiece.
Penn is back in action next Wednesday, hosting Temple to begin a four-game stretch that included three Philadelphia Big 5 matchups. The Quakers and Owls will tip off at 7 p.m., and the game will be televised live on CN8.