Not many players receive an ovation from their home crowd when they foul out of a game.
But when Tyler Bernardini picked up his fifth personal on Friday night, after an initial collective moan, nothing but cheers resounded from the Red and Blue faithful — the senior guard had eclipsed his career high in points for the second-straight game. Behind his 30-point effort, Penn cruised to victory over Marist, 84-71.
It was just two weeks ago, in the Quakers’ previous game against UCLA, that Bernardini had set his previous career high with 29 points. In the first 10 games of the year, he did not reach 20 points and was averaging 12.9 per game. He has now upped that average to 15.7.
“I’m feeling pretty good. It’s really easy when you play with a point guard like Zack [Rosen] — he makes the game so easy,” Bernardini said after the game. “The first few games of the season I really wasn’t doing my job and he was carrying us, and now I feel like I’m giving him the help that he needs.”
And though Rosen did not have his best shooting night, going 4-for-11 from the field, he did get into a groove dishing out assists — the senior guard racked up a season high of 12.
“Those two seniors, they can play anywhere,” Marist coach Chuck Martin said of Bernardini and Rosen. “It’s not just me, ask the guys at UCLA, they gave [them] problems too. That backcourt is tough.”
Though the Quakers (6-6) jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, the first half was mostly a back-and-forth battle. The Red Foxes (5-7) built up their own seven-point lead later in the first, but Penn led at the half, 38-36.
“At halftime we talked about getting stops, and I didn’t think scoring the ball was an issue for us in the first half,” coach Jerome Allen said. “But we gave up 36 points, and we can’t expect to win too many ballgames by giving up that many points.”
But the Red and Blue’s tantalizing defense kept the Red Foxes on the perimeter throughout most of the second and forced them to take tough shots. Though they hung with Penn in the first as a result of their 7-for-13 three-point shooting, they were unable to keep it up through the game.
The Quakers began to pull away early in the second frame, scoring the first 10 points of the half to jump out to a 12-point lead. Each one of the starting five of Bernardini, Rosen, Henry Brooks, Miles Cartwright and Rob Belcore scored two points during the run, a testament to the total team effort the Quakers gave. For the first time all season, each starter finished in double digits.
“I just remember two possessions throughout the game where we made the extra pass,” Allen said of the offense. “That’s just a sign of guys just playing for one another and not really caring who gets the shot in the end, and I think if we can continue with that attitude, we got a number of guys who can score points for us.”
The 13-point victory for the Red and Blue was their largest since their season opening, 14-point win at UMBC. The 84 points were also the most Penn has scored under Jerome Allen. The Quakers will have five days off before they head south, where they will take on Davidson on December 29 and No. 7 Duke on New Year’s Day.