Bernardini was in vintage form, with 16 points in the first half, hitting three of four from deep.
"We just wanted to sustain that momentum," he said, "especially on the defensive end. We were getting stops. I think that was key to our offense."
But, as has been the Quakers' weakness all season, they couldn't play a consistent 40 minutes. The Wildcats (12-2) ended the first half on a 12-point run, much to the delight of the raucous 21,681 in attendance, and led at intermission, 33-32.
"You've got to give Penn credit," Calipari said. "They came in with a game plan, and they executed. If we didn't have that run at halftime, they would have beat us."
In the second half, Kentucky looked much more like the powerhouse it is, as freshman Brandon Knight - who tied Bernardini to lead all scorers with 22 - took control.
Knight, whom Penn coach Jerome Allen described as "phenomenal," finished with four assists and no turnovers. More impressive, he held Penn's leading scorer, Zack Rosen, to only six points, only the second time he failed to reach double digits in the last 37 games.
With the strong second-half shooting from Knight, as well as classmate Doron Lamb, Kentucky finished 32-for-56 from the floor, a 57.1 percent clip.
The Wildcats also cleaned up on the boards in the second half, finishing the game with 37 rebounds - 11 from senior Josh Harrellson - to Penn's 17. Senior Jack Eggleston, who had a quiet scoring night with seven points, led Penn with four rebounds.
The Quakers will return to Philadelphia and prepare for their second Big 5 matchup when they travel to La Salle, Jan. 12. *