ORLANDO, Fla. - For those fans that have been waiting for the Penn men's basketball team to get out of its early-season funk, Tuesday night's game with Campbell may have been just what you were looking for.
The Quakers entered the contest just 1-7, but showed all the elements of a winner in taking a 78-67 from the Camels in a contest that was not nearly that close. The game was the consolation of the UCF Holiday Classic.
Penn (2-7) shot nearly 55 percent from the field, hitting 29 of its 53 attempts, and also knocked down 15-of-20 from the foul line. The Quakers had assists on 21 of their 29 buckets, came up with a staggering 12 blocked shots and garnered 10 steals. When the final box score was produced, it showed five players scoring in double figures -- Jack Eggleston (16), Cameron Lewis (14), Tyler Bernardini (13), Brennan Votel (11) and Zack Rosen (10).
Perhaps most importantly, though, when the game looked like it might get away from the Quakers, they seized control back and would not relinquish it until the game had been settled.
"I thought that, for the most part, we defended pretty well and we got good movement on offense tonight," said head coach Glen Miller after the contest. "Most importantly, we made the shots that we were getting. Anytime you win you are happy. I thought that tonight we took some steps forward.
"I told the guys after last night's game that we don't have any superstars who are going to carry us," he continued. "We have a lot of guys who can get the job done, but ultimately we are going to need to rely on each other if we are going to have success. Tonight, we did that."
With a sleepy, small crowd and a 4:30 p.m. tipoff, it was clear that the team that came out with more energy was going to get the upper hand in this contest. That turned out to be Penn, which scored eight of the game's first 11 points. That advantage bulged to double figures before the half reached its midpoint and reached its apex (26-13) with 9:52 to play on an Eggleston foul shot.
Campbell (3-8) got it together, though, as Penn went scoreless for more than five minutes. At the other end, the Camels' star scorer, Jonathan Rodriguez, was putting in a majority of his13 first-half points, and when teammate Amir Celestin hit a three-pointer just before the break, the Penn lead was just seven (36-29).
In the second half, the problems that have plagued Penn through the early season began rearing themselves up. Turnovers began to be magnified, and shots refused to go down. With 17:32 to play, Campbell's Matt Gwynne tipped in a missed jumper, and Penn's lead was only 38-36. A Penn turnover gave the Camels a chance to tie or take the lead, but Rodriguez turned it back to the Quakers and Votel hit a layup.
The Quakers were off.
Rob Belcore followed with a layup, and then Eggleston answered a Miles Taylor bucket with a conventional three-point play to make the score 45-38. Taylor scored again to make it a five-point game, but Votel responded with a trey, Bernardini hit a jumper, and then Votel again shook free for a layup. When Bernardini knocked down his only three of the game, Campbell called timeout but the damage was done -- Penn's lead was 55-40. The Quakers kept pouring it on, eventually building the lead to 26 points (70-44); in all, it was a 32-8 run over an 11-minute span, and it rendered this game moot.
Eggleston earned all-tournament, as he led the Quakers in scoring in both games here at UCF. Lewis definitely played himself into consideration Tuesday night; along with his 14 points, the senior grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and blocked five shots which are a high for a Penn player in the three-year Miller coaching era. Belcore, who played 59 minutes in the tournament and made his first two collegiate starts, had seven assists without a turnover against the Camels.
Eggleston was joined on the all-tournament team by Campbell's Rodriguez, as well as John Cantrell and David Holston of Chicago State and A.J. Rompza of UCF. The tournament MVP was Jermaine Taylor, who followed up his 34-point game against Penn with a 38-point night in the championship game against Chicago State. The host Knights defeated the Cougars 89-75for the tournament crown.
Penn is off until next year -- or next Tuesday, if you prefer to look at it that way. The Quakers will host Lafayette on January 6 at The Palestra in a 7 p.m. tipoff.