ORLANDO, Fla. - After a 24-day break, Penn had a little trouble shaking off the rust against Central Florida in the first round of the Knights' UCF Holiday Classic.
Jermaine Taylor matched his career high with 34 points as UCF pulled away in the second half for an 81-64 victory over the Quakers last night. Penn hadn't played since a 76-65 loss to Navy on Dec. 5.
Penn will play Campbell in today's consolation game. The Camels (3-7) fell to Chicago State, 98-89, in last night's first game. UCF and Chicago State will meet for the tournament title following the Penn-Campbell game.
The Quakers (1-7) hung in with the Knights through a half and were down by only three at the half, 35-32. But UCF (7-4) pulled away in the second half. UCF was never seriously challenged in the second half while hitting 17 of its 28 shots after intermission.
Jack Eggleston led Penn with 15 points, 13 in the second half. Tyler Bernardini and Kevin Egee scored 13 points apiece, while Brennan Votel had nine and a team-leading five rebounds. Freshman Rob Belcore made his first start, scoring three points and grabbing four rebounds in 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, Taylor finished with at least 30 points for the third time in the last five games. The senior guard hit 14 of 21 shots, including 3-for-6 from three-point range, and was the only UCF player to reach double figures. He was 7-for-9 after halftime.
Early in the second half, Penn was down 43-36 and still within striking distance, but Taylor caught fire. He went on a personal 9-4 run that pushed the Knights to a 52-40 lead with 13 1/2 minutes to play.
In the opener, David Holston had a season-high 40 points for Chicago State (7-6). Holston broke the 30-point mark for the seventh time this season.
Campbell was led by Jonathan Rodriguez with 22 points and six rebounds. Both teams had 25 turnovers apiece. *