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M Hoops vs. Davidson season opener Credit: Michelle Bigony

Saturday night’s matchup with Davidson was a game of firsts for the men’s basketball team.

In Jerome Allen’s first game as the official John R. Rockwell Head Coach, the Quakers opened the season with a 69-64 victory over the Wildcats at the Palestra.

And it was in the opening half that the crowd of 5,633 got its first glimpse of freshman Miles Cartwright.

After two fouls within the first three minutes of play sent star point guard Zack Rosen to the bench, in came Cartwright.

Though his first minutes of action came sooner than expected, Cartwright seemed more than ready despite some understandable jitters.

“I can’t even lie, I was nervous all day — nervous all week,” Cartwright said. “But once the ball got in my hands and [I] went up a couple of times, it was basketball.”

Then the Miles Cartwright show was in full effect.

With the Quakers up 26-22 and just under six minutes remaining in the opening period, the freshman scored Penn’s next nine points, a 9-3 run, to push the lead to 10.

A timeout by Davidson coach Bob McKillop stopped the bleeding, and the regrouped Wildcats were able to engineer a run of their own. Davidson went on a 13-4 run to end the half, including a three-pointer by forward Clint Mann that was banked in at the buzzer.

At the break, Cartwright led all scorers with 18 points.

But if “Meezo,” as his high school teammates called him, was the catalyst for Penn in the first half, it was the reliable duo of Rosen and senior Jack Eggleston that led the way in the second, scoring 24 of the team’s 30 points in the period.

Rosen, playing with fresh legs, asserted himself offensively, while Eggleston’s defensive presence was crucial down the stretch.

Eggleston blocked four shots on the night, the first time he has accomplished that feat during his college career. He also grabbed seven of his team-high 11 rebounds in the second half.

“To me it seemed like every missed shot that [Davidson] had in the second half, Jack Eggleston got the rebound,” Allen said. “I thought my mind was playing tricks on me.”

Eggleston made a huge impact offensively as well. With the Red and Blue up 60-57, he nailed a three pointer to make it a two-possession game with 2:20 remaining. The Quakers made it harder on themselves by missing four of their next six free throws, but for Eggleston, the final minute was his first opportunity of the season to prove himself in crunch-time.

With the Wildcats looking to foul quickly, Eggleston actively cut to receive Penn’s final two inbound passes. He then hit 4-for-4 from the line to ice the game.

“I’m a senior, I’m a captain [and] I want the ball in my hands,” Eggleston said. “I’ve got a little bit of a history of being unclutch, missing some free throws … so I really wanted a chance to redeem myself and prove this year’s going to be different.”

And speaking of different, Saturday’s victory was Penn’s first of the season, an achievement the Quakers were unable to attain last season until Jan. 6.

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