Cartwright sparks Penn to victory over UMBC

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Jerome Allen and Penn defeated UMBC, 71-59. (Staff File Photo)

Some things remain essentially the same through the years. Thankfully, the Palestra qualifies.

"Nothing's changed," Randy Monroe said. "It's still hot as hell in here."

And that was when his Maryland-Baltimore County team was playing pretty well against Penn. It never cooled off, but UMBC did. And Penn's wins for Novembver totaled half of what it had all last season.

The Quakers shot 52.8 percent and won last night, 71-59.

Monroe, the former Roman Catholic and Cheyney player and assistant coach at La Salle during the Lionel Simmons/Doug Overton glory days, explained before the game that his team was much better on offense this season and much worse on defense. When you are desperate for a win, it's always something.

Another reason to appear at the Palestra is that from one season to the next you are never certain what you might see. On Opening Night against Davidson, Penn freshman Miles Cartwright got in because Zack Rosen was in foul trouble and proceeded to score 18 points in the first half. Cartwright had 22 at Pittsburgh Saturday, and they were not garbage-time points.

When Penn (3-3) was sagging early last night against the Retrievers, coach Jerome Allen sent Cartwright into the game. He brought energy, offense and speed. He did not change the game entirely by himself, but he did change it.

Cartwright scored 12 points in the first half and 19 for the game. It would have been more if he had not taken a knee to the thigh with 9 minutes to go and spent the rest of the night on the bench.

"He has surpassed my expectations, not so much in his ability to score the ball, but in his composure and his understanding of when to go, when to defend, when to be part of the puzzle, when to be a teammate, when to cheer," Allen said.

Allen said he figures that Cartwright eventually will hit the freshman wall or "his head's going to explode from me screaming at him."

Did Allen hit that wall in his freshman season at Penn?

"No, I didn't."

By the time this season is done, the Quakers figure to have three 1,000-points scorers - Rosen, Jack Eggleston and Tyler Bernardini. But it might be the freshman from Van Nuys, Calif., who makes the biggest difference in the win-loss record.

"I'm not going to lie," Cartwright said. "I'm pretty surprised with the way I've played. I knew that it was going to be a learning curve and it was going to be a lot different than high school . . . Like coach said, I know it's a long season. We're only six games in."

Cartwright got his first high school dunk in his final game. He threw one down last night after an open-court steal.

"Not only did I see Cartwright on the floor, I will see him on the DVD and in my sleep," Monroe said.

UMBC (0-6) won its only America East championship and got to the school's first NCAA Tournament in 2008. However, there are no dynasties at that level. And it can get frustrating, which might have been why Monroe's coat somehow ended up falling off his back and landing on the floor in the second half as Penn began to pull away.

Penn has other concerns. Such as, how to build on a nice start to the season and hit it hard when Ivy League play begins in 2 months.

"We didn't play our best basketball," Allen said. "We had 17 turnovers. I don't think any of them were forced."

Penn scored its final 22 points from the foul line, as UMBC did whatever it could to try to get back into the game. Penn's bench outscored UMBC's, 32-5. That was mostly Cartwright and Conor Turley (11 points).

And there was Rob Belcore's defense on UMBC's scoring point guard, Chris De La Rosa, who shot only 1-for-7 and had five of his team's 20 turnovers.

"What he contributes to this team may not show up in the stat sheet," Allen said of Belcore.

Eggleston (17 points, six rebounds, three assists) and Rosen (12 points, six rebounds, four assists) fill the stat sheet. And they are getting some serious help there from the California freshman. *