THE CONVERSATION surrounding Jerome Allen's incoming freshman class revolved around the talented backcourt combination of Darnell Foreman and Antonio Woods.
But after last night, you'd have easily confused 6-7 forward Sam Jones as the cream of Allen's freshman crop.
The Gilbert, Ariz., native poured in a game- and career-high 19 points in Penn's 59-42 rout of Marist at the Palestra. This on the heels of an 11-point effort in Saturday's win over Binghamton.
"It felt really good," Jones said. "We're just working every day to get better and better and when my number gets called, hopefully, I'll be able to help the team out and if not, I'm just here to get better every day."
The win marks three in a row for the Quakers after losing their first five. Penn hadn't won three straight since a seven-game streak that spanned from Feb. 11 to March 3 in 2012.
Jones scored 13 of his 19 off the bench in the first half on 5-for-7 shooting, connecting on all three shots he took from beyond the arc. He finished 7-for-10 from the floor while knocking down five of six from three-point range.
Two of Jones' first-half treys came during a crucial 24-4 run to open the game. Before the undermanned Red Foxes could blink, the game had gotten away.
With injuries to its top two scorers - Khallid Hart and Chavaughn Lewis - Marist never found its offensive game.
By the time the first half ended, the Penn lead was 35-14. The Quakers held Marist to only 4-for-24 shooting in the opening frame, including only 1-for-12 from deep.
On the night, Marist shot only 21 percent from the field, including an abysmal 4-for-28 from three-point range.
Despite the win, Allen wasn't pleased with the overall effort. The Quakers turned the ball over 14 times in the second half and 20 times on the night. Allen said that good teams can't do that.
"We prepare these guys with a certain expectation," Allen said. "We expect to win if they execute the game plan. I can only control what I can control.
"I sit here, not only as the gatekeeper to this program, but my kids go to school here, my wife goes to school here. I try not to get caught up in what [the outside] is saying. I just try to get my team better. And that's why I can come in here and talk about the 14 turnovers in the second half and not just say, 'Yeah, we've arrived,' because we won three in a row."
Penn got 13 points and nine rebounds from senior forward Greg Louis. Leading scorer Tony Hicks scored only four points as he battled foul trouble all game before fouling out with just under 10 minutes to play. Darien Nelson-Henry scored five points and also had nine rebounds. The Quakers outrebounded Marist, 45-31.
K.J. Lee led Marist (1-8) with 15 points.
The Quakers (3-5) now have a 2-week break to finish out the semester. When they get back on the floor, a tough four-game road stretch begins starting with a trip to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt.
"The first thing we said in the locker room after the game is we have 13 days until our next game," Allen said. "But the thing that's pressing right now is reading days, getting ready for finals, studying, taking care of that aspect of their overall experience here at Penn. We'll have enough time to talk about trapping on the floor and executing where we set screens at and how we defend ball screens.
"They've shown growth from Nov. 15 until today and I like where we're headed."