DAVIDSON, N.C. - A late rally wasn't enough as the Penn Quakers suffered a tough loss against Davidson College, 75-70, last night at Belk Arena.
Tyler Bernardini had a team-high 16 points and Zack Rosen added 14 points and five assists, but the high-scoring duo connected on just 10 of 27 shots against a solid Davidson defense.
The game was rugged, with 51 fouls being called. Players on both teams struggled to get open looks much of the night and neither team found much of an offensive rhythm.
"They're a dangerous team," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said of Penn. "This win didn't come easy. They're relentless."
The Quakers (6-7) never trailed in the first half, leading by as many as eight points before going into the intermission ahead, 33-30. The lead came despite Rosen and Bernardini shooting a combined 3-for-15.
The game turned in the opening minutes of the second half, when Wildcats Tom Droney and Clint Mann keyed a defensive surge that forced turnovers on three straight Penn possessions, leading to six straight points for Davidson. The 6-0 run resulted in the Wildcats' first lead of the game, and turned into a 12-1 surge that gave the hosts a lead they would not relinquish.
"Poor shot selection and careless turnovers allowed them to get out to a lead," Penn coach Jerome Allen said.
With Droney and Mann keying the defensive effort, sophomore Chris Czerapowicz and junior Nik Cochran sparked Davidson (10-4) on offense. Cochran scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, including several key buckets when the Quakers made mini-runs trying to close the gap. Cochran also made 11 straight second-half foul shots.
Czerapowicz, meanwhile, came off the bench to score a career-high 23 points, including 16 in the first half when Davidson's leading scorer, De'Mon Brooks, was held scoreless.
Missed opportunities in the first half and mistakes in the final 20 minutes doomed the Quakers, who focused their defensive efforts on Brooks and 6-10 All-Southern Conference player Jake Cohen. But Penn had no answer for Czerapowicz, a 6-7 shooting guard who finished 9-for-15 from the field.
"Penn does a very, very good job of guarding the paint," McKillop said. "They build their defense inside-out. It frustrated our big men."
Cohen, a Conestoga grad, had just seven points, but pulled down 10 rebounds before fouling out while logging just 26 minutes.
The game marked the first this season in which Brooks and Cohen were held under double figures. But Penn couldn't take advantage.
The Quakers trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half, but a 9-0 run keyed by Rosen and Bernardini cut the Davidson lead to three twice late in the game. Rosen had assists on back-to-back buckets and then drilled a three-pointer during the final run. Bernardini had a steal and a dunk with 1:43 remaining that closed the gap to 68-63. He drew a foul and canned a pair of foul shots 30 seconds later to cut the lead to three.
A Brooks bucket inside and a pair of foul shots by Cochran on the ensuing possession sealed the win for Davidson.