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Senior guard Tyler Bernardini goes to the rim against Kentucky's Terrence Jones. Bernardini led Penn's offensive output with 22 points.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — At the beginning, it looked like the Penn basketball team would get the new year off to a good start.

With under four minutes left in the first half, the Quakers held an 11-point lead against a No. 11 Kentucky squad that was fresh off a six-game win streak.

But the Wildcats came roaring back, closing the frame on a 12-point run en route to an eventual 86-62 victory at the storied Rupp Arena.

Despite being physically outmatched by Kentucky (12-2), Penn put forth a strong defensive effort against a normally productive Wildcats squad that struggled to land shots.

The Red and Blue (5-6) also took advantage of their opponents’ lackluster defensive effort on the perimeter, finishing the half with 7-for-9 shooting from downtown. In an explosive first-half performance, senior guard Tyler Bernardini led the Quakers’ offensive output, scoring 16 points for Penn.

Fifteen minutes into play, the Red and Blue had pulled ahead to a 12-point lead.

“We just wanted to sustain the momentum, especially on the defensive end,” Bernardini said. “We were getting stops. I think that was the key to our offense.”

But an offensive rebound and subsequent tip-in by senior forward Josh Harrellson sparked the Wildcats' comeback. Beginning with that basket, Kentucky went on a 14-1 run to end the half up 33-32.

“They were on fire in the first half,” freshman guard Doron Lamb said of Penn's offense. “We knew we just had to dig in.”

The run seemed to give Kentucky the confidence it needed to dominate after the break, with Penn giving up 22 points in the first eight minutes of the frame. The Wildcats' defense began to tighten up and they dominated the glass, posting 15 rebounds — 13 defensive — after the break compared to just three boards by Penn.

“We say that we’re going to be a defensive-minded team, and … after the first 15 minutes of the game, we didn’t do a great job at defending,” head coach Jerome Allen said.

Though Bernardini continued to perform on offense, finishing the game with 22 points, his total output was equaled by Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight. In addition to the rookie, whom Wildcats coach John Calipari praised for his ability to lead the team on the floor, four other Wildcats players scored in double digits, and 24 points came off the Wildcats' bench.

By contrast, Bernardini and rookie Miles Cartwright — who scored sixteen points — accounted for 61.3 percent of the Quakers’ final tally.

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