A little more than a year ago, Jerome Allen returned to his alma mater as a volunteer coach after a 14-year professional career. One month later, Penn was 0-7 and Allen's boss, head coach Glen Miller, was fired.
Just like that, the Penn Hall of Famer was a Division I head coach. Allen's promotion cut the ties that bind convention, and his first game was a wrenching welcome - a 29-point loss at Davidson. A 6-15 record as interim coach followed.
"I know it doesn't usually happen like this," Allen said Saturday night, standing beneath the Palestra bleachers. "But Penn showed faith in me, and I'm so grateful."
When Davidson visited the Palestra on Saturday night, Allen watched guards Zack Rosen and Miles Cartwright combine for 34 points to carry Penn to a 69-64 victory in the season opener for both teams.
"We've come a long way," Allen said.
After picking up his second foul just three minutes into the game, Rosen hit the bench in favor of Cartwright. The freshman steered the Quakers' offense like a veteran and scored all of his 18 points in the half to give Penn a 39-38 lead at intermission.
"I can't say that I expected him to play a lot of minutes," Allen said. "I knew we were going to need him to win the game in some facet, but he led the group."
"I was nervous," said Cartwright, a Southern California native with a smooth righthanded jumper and a knack for finishing at the rim. "I can't lie. I was nervous all day and I was nervous all week."
When it came time for Penn to fend off Davidson in the second half, Cartwright happily relinquished the spotlight to Rosen, a possible contender for Ivy League player of the year. The junior scored or assisted on six of Penn's final seven field goals and finished with 16 points.
With four minutes remaining and Penn leading, 58-57, Rosen drove through a thicket of defenders to convert a layup. Moments later, he drove to the basket and, as the defense collapsed, kicked the ball to an open Jack Eggleston for a corner three.
Eggleston ended the night with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Conestoga High product Jake Cohen added 10 points for Davidson, which didn't have a scorer with more than 12 points.