POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - On paper, the Penn basketball team should have had little trouble dispatching a Marist squad that finished last season with a dismal 1-29 record and had lost 21 straight nonconference games.
The Quakers did indeed control the opening minutes in last night's matchup, but the Red Foxes rallied to a 66-57 victory.
Early on, Penn (5-5) found a soft spot in Marist's 2-3 zone and buried four consecutive three-pointers from the left wing - the first three by junior point guard Zack Rosen and the last by senior Tyler Bernardini.
But when the Red Foxes (3-10) went man-to-man, the Quakers had trouble adjusting. A 16-8 Penn lead disintegrated over a 14-possession scoreless streak, and Marist trailed just 27-25 at halftime.
"After the first 5 minutes of the game, we thought the game was over," Penn coach Jerome Allen said. "We stopped trying to execute, stopped trying to make the extra pass, stopped being aggressive."
Out of the break, Marist started with a 6-0 run and extended its lead to 46-35 over the next 8 minutes.
Bernardini kept the Quakers within striking distance with 12 second-half points, but Penn could not overcome an overall flat effort or an 18-point disparity in free throws.
"Coach Allen has been really getting on me to just start trying to be me," Bernardini said. "I was just trying to be more aggressive and help our team, and it just didn't happen."
Penn shot just 6-for-13 the line, while Marist knocked down 24 of 27.
The Quakers were once again shorthanded due to their continued struggles with the injury bug. Guard Rob Belcore wore sunglasses on the bench and was not dressed for action, and senior center Andreas Schreiber did not make the trip due to an injury. Allen declined to comment on either player.
Allen lamented the team's trouble in getting the ball inside, as Penn's frontcourt was held to a collective 18 points and 22 rebounds.
"I think I have to take a lot of blame for that. I didn't establish myself in the low post," senior Jack Eggleston said. "I wasn't strong enough inside."
It won't get any easier for the Quakers, as they travel to take on No. 11 Kentucky on Monday.