Bernardini heats up, but Quakers fall to UCLA
Senior's career game can't help Penn upset Pac-12 Bruins
December 10, 2011, 9:07 pm·
Megan Falls | DP
ANAHEIM, Ca. — Tyler Bernardini quickly got comfortable playing back in his home state of California.
The senior poured in a career-high 29 points on 8-for-12 shooting from three-point land, but it wasn’t enough for the Quakers against UCLA in Anaheim. The Bruins won, 77-73.
Though Saturday’s game was a homecoming for Bernardini, Penn coach Jerome Allen downplayed the emotions of the return.
“[Some] called it a homecoming, I call it a road game for us,” he said.
After keeping the game close in the first half — the Quakers and the Bruins were nearly identical in rebounds and shooting percentage — Penn entered the locker room down, 39-35.
But UCLA, whose star forward Reeves Nelson was dismissed from the team for behavioral reasons on Friday, opened up the second half with a 6-0 run and never looked back. Despite Bernardini’s success beyond the arc, Penn’s shooting dropped off to 39 percent in the second half.
The Red and Blue had no match inside for Josh Smith, UCLA’s 305-pound, 6-foot-10 sophomore center. Allen substituted Fran Dougherty, Mike Howlett and Cam Gunter into the game for freshman starter Henry Brooks, but none could contain Smith, especially in the second half. After limiting Smith to just two points in the first, the center scored 10 in the second. UCLA outscored the Quakers in the paint, 34-16.
Much of Penn’s offensive struggles came from UCLA’s zone defense, which Allen said he did not see much of on tape.
“[The zone] kind of bothered us at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half,” Allen said.
After playing its first seven games in man-to-man, UCLA switched to the zone against the Quakers. Bruins coach Ben Howland said Smith benefitted from the new defensive scheme. Offensively, UCLA was able to take advantage of its superior size.
“We know what our strengths are,” Smith said. “Primarily, we want to get the ball inside.”
While the Bruins dominated the paint, they forced Penn to feed the ball to the perimeter and rely on its backcourt: the Quakers had 31 three-point attempts. Bernardini and Rob Belcore — who went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc — contributed 42 points total, but star guards Zack Rosen and Miles Cartwright went a combined 1-for-13 from three. Rosen particularly had an uncharacteristic night, missing several shots badly, and he and Cartwright were held to eight points each.
“We didn’t have each guy do what we needed to do to win the game,” Allen said. “I push for perfection from all of our players playing together … In the end, it was just our inability to consistently execute.”
The Quakers found themselves in a 14-point hole midway through the second half after Smith, Travis Wear and Lazeric Jones contributed to a 7-0 UCLA run. But Penn fought and pulled within four points with just under three minutes remaining after Cartwright’s free throw, followed by three consecutive treys by Belcore, Cartwright and Bernardini.
Jones, who finished with 21 points for the Bruins, and Smith both scored baskets in the paint to keep the Quakers in check. A last-second corner three-point attempt from Cartwright — who was also making his homecoming as a Los Angeles native — was swatted out of bounds by Jerime Anderson to seal the game.
Though it’s widely known that Allen and his squad don’t believe in moral victories, Bernardini sees improvement as the season moves forward.
“As the team works together and we believe more in each other,” he said, “we’re going to get better.”