Box Score (PDF)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The biggest shot that Tyler Bernardini hit on Saturday afternoon at the IZOD Center didn't count. The second-biggest shot was one that didn't even happen.
Bernardini's fortunes mirrored those of the entire Penn men's basketball team. When he got hot, so did the Quakers, and the result was a 68-52 win over Army.
It is no secret that Bernardini has been struggling from the field. After leading Penn in scoring as a sophomore in 2008-09, he went down with a foot injury in the second game last year and never came back. This year, he would be the first to tell you that he has not met expectations in the early part of the season.
Those frustrations continued through the first half of Saturday's game, as Bernardini shot 1-of-4 from the field and missed a trio of wide-open looks from beyond the arc. When the teams went to the locker rooms, they were tied, 28-28.
A funny thing happened in the second half, though. Early on, Bernardini got another open look from downtown. As he prepped to shoot, though,a whistle blew to signal a foul away from the ball. Bernardini's shot went down, and he smiled and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "NOW the shot goes in!"
A few minutes later, Bernardini was sprung for what looked like a coast-to-coast layup, but as he took the ball another whistle blew the play dead. Once again, Bernardini's face lit up with a smile and again he gave the ref a look as if to say, "you are taking points away from me!"
After that, no one could take points from him. Bernardini returned to his loosey-goosey self and made all three trey attempts he took, finishingSaturday's game with a season-high 13 points. That was more than enough on a day when Zack Rosen led Penn with 20 points, Conor Turley added another 11, and Jack Eggleston gave another workmanlike performance with seven points and a game-high nine rebounds.
As a team, Penn went 14-of-21 from the field in the second half-- knocking down six of their eight three-point attempts -- in improving to 4-3 on the season with the win. Army dropped to 4-4.
Penn's decisive run came quickly after the break. Ella Ellis gave Army a quick three-point lead, but Penn scored 14 of the next 16 points to take a 42-33 lead that the Quakers never relinquished. Turley started the run with a layup, followed by a Bernardini layup. Bernardini's first trey came shortly after that, and then Rosen sandwiched foul shots around layups by Turley and Eggleston. Army's only answer during that run came at the 13:39 mark, more than six minutes after Ellis' initial three.
Army got within six points at the midway point of the second half, when Josh Herbeck banged a trey, but nearly two minutes went by before Bernardini knocked down another trifecta, and then after the teams traded baskets Rob Belcore hit a three-pointer that put the Quakers' lead back at double figures (55-45).
Penn put it away in the game's final five minutes. Ellis hit a layup with 5:38 to make the score 60-49, but Army hit another scoreless drought of four minutes and Penn scored six points over that stretch.
Jeremy Hence was Army's leading scorer with 15 points, while Julian Simmons had 10.
Penn returns to action on Wednesday, hosting Villanova in its first Big 5 game of the season. The Quakers and Wildcats will tip off at 7 p.m. in The Palestra.