Turn back the clock: Penn basketball's last NCAA tournament

Penn men's basketball last made the NCAA Tournament in 2007.


Nowadays, it seems like the closest Penn students come to “March Madness” (besides spring break, of course) is filling out brackets or watching the Big Dance on TV.

But it wasn’t long ago that Penn consistently had the opportunity to experience the real thing on a consistent basis. In fact, in the early to mid 2000s, Penn men’s basketball was a bona fide Ivy League powerhouse, regularly finishing atop the Ancient Eight.

Given the recent struggles of the program — the team finished dead last in the Ivies this year — it may be hard to envision the team dominating the league, but Penn’s storied basketball history is actually not that far in the past. So let’s use the Final Four festivities coming up this weekend as an excuse to turn back the clock to 2007, the last time the Quakers made it to the NCAA Tournament.

Heading into the 2006-07 season, besting the Ivy League had become commonplace for the Red and Blue — they were two time defending champions and had won the league in four of the previous five years.

But something drastic had changed for the program. Legendary coach Fran Dunphy had left after the 2005-06 season to take the Temple head coaching job, leaving the program in the hands of veteran coach Glenn Miller.

The Quakers overcame the coaching turnover — led by seniors Ibrahim Jaaber, Mark Zoller and Steven Danley — and were able to accrue a 13-1 Ivy record and win the Ivies by a three-game margin, earning them an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. They were given a 14-seed and sent to the South region of the bracket, matched up against three-seed Texas A&M.

Despite their relative ease getting through the Ivy regular season, the Quakers experienced adversity from the get-go.

In front of a pro-Penn (and anti-A&M) Rupp Arena crowd, the Quakers were unable to score until more than five minutes into the game — with Danley hampered by a back injury, the Quakers struggled to get going offensively.

“When you play against such a good team … you have to knock down a reasonable amount of shot,” Miller said. “We dug ourselves a hole.”

Meanwhile, the Aggies — led by All-American and future first-round NBA draft pick Acie Law — would take control of the game.

The Quakers fought back. With Danley essentially a non-factor, Jaaber and Zoller carried the load offensively for Penn. Within the first nine minutes of the second half, the Quakers went on a 19-3 run to take their first lead of the game, 39-37, much to the approval of the crowd.

“They did a great job of converting those plays, and we did a bad job of finishing them,” Law said of the Quakers’ run.

However, it would ultimately turn out to also be Penn’s last lead of the game.

With just under 12 minutes remaining, A&M forward Joseph Jones tip-slammed a Law miss to tie the game. On the very next possession, the same thing happened: Law missed and Jones slammed it home.

The Aggies would not relinquish the lead, overwhelming the Quakers for the rest of the game and taking home a 68-52 victory.

“Getting taken out of the game, just knowing that there’s not a tomorrow, it kind of hit me there a little bit,” Jaaber said of his last collegiate game.

The Aggies would go on to lose in the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, the Red and Blue are still searching for their first Tourney win since 1994, a search that has no clear end in sight.

Penn baseball's Ronnie Glenn, softball's Jurie Joyner earn Ivy honors

The Quakers earned a couple of pieces of hardware on the diamond last week.

Penn baseball ace Ronnie Glenn was named Ivy League Pitcher of the Week after leading the Red and Blue to a pair of victories in as many starts. The senior southpaw allowed two runs in five innings against St Joseph's and just one run in nine innings en route to a complete-game, extra-inning win over Harvard (the teams were scheduled for seven innings). Glenn also racked up 13 strikeouts, helping him bring in his first Ivy League weekly award.

Penn softball joined in on the award-winning fun, with catcher Jurie Joyner slugging her way to Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors. Joyner hit .643 in five games, bringing her season average up to .422, good for fourth in the league. The freshman also drove in nine runs, giving her the league's sixth-highest total (11). Of Joyner's nine hits on the week, seven went for extra bases, and one of them cleared the wall for her first collegiate home run. The Georgia native shared the award with Brown pitcher Katie Orona.

In addition to the two awards, both teams landed a player on the weekly honor roll. Baseball senior Connor Betbeze hit .571 to earn a spot, and softball junior captain Lauren Li joined him after hitting .743.

Glenn will likely make his next start this weekend against Yale or Brown. Joyner will look to continue her hot streak when Penn and Lafayette play two on Wednesday.

Both teams started their Ivy campaigns with three wins in four games, thanks in no small part to the award-winning efforts of Glenn and Joyner. Baseball enters the week at 7-9 overall, while softball stands at 11-9.

Former-Penn basketball recruit Jule Brown decommits

It’s always painful to go through a breakup.

Penn men's basketball recruit and Lower Merion High School senior Jule Brown announced Monday that he has decommitted from the Quakers and will not be a part of the program next season.

Brown made the announcement via Twitter Monday afternoon.

“After careful deliberation with my family and coach, I have decided to look for better options,” Brown said in the statement on social media. “I look forward to going through the recruiting process again. Again, a huge thank you to the University of Pennsylvania.”

It is unclear if Brown’s decision is a result of former coach Jerome Allen’s firing.

“I thought I had a great connection with [Allen], along with the other coaches. But I’m shocked. That’s all I can say,” Brown said in an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian immediately following the news of Allen’s firing on March 7.

However, at the time, Brown made it sound as if he had no plans to leave the program.

“Penn’s a great school, great basketball team,” Brown said. “I’d be foolish not to stick with them.”

However, it is clear that Brown’s sentiments have changed over the past three weeks. After having received offers from Columbia, Lafayette and Hartford in his initial recruitment last year, Brown will reopen his recruitment.

Despite Brown’s decommitment, Penn will still have a very solid class arriving on campus next fall. Cherry Hill, N.J. native and guard Jake Silpe will headline the Quakers’ class of 2019, which will also include center Collin McManus and sharpshooter Jackson Donahue, both of whom attend Northfield Mount Hermon (Mass.).

“The generosity and camaraderie I have experienced over the last year has been a blessing,” Brown wrote in the letter. “[The Quakers] are a special group of players and there is no doubt in my mind they will be making noise in the Ivy League in the upcoming year and beyond.” 

President Obama cheers Princeton women's basketball to NCAA win

Ivy League champion Princeton played its first game of the NCAA Tournament yesterday and the Tigers had a pretty big fan in their corner.

President Barack Obama was in the stands in College Park, Md., cheering for the Tigers, who feature his niece, freshman forward Leslie Robinson. Michelle Obama, a Princeton grad, was in Japan and was unable to attend the game.

Princeton, which was surprisingly put as an eight seed despite a 30-0 record going into the Tournament, picked up an 80-70 victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay, moving to 31-0. The Tigers will face the host in the region, Maryland, on Monday in a battle to make the Sweet 16. 

The win was the first in Princeton women's basketball NCAA Tournament history and just the second ever by an Ivy team. Penn led Texas at the half last year in its NCAA matchup (also played at College Park) but could not come away with a win.

Liveblog: Penn women's basketball takes on Hofstra in the WNIT

Penn women's basketball hosts Hofstra in the first round of the WNIT. Follow along with our liveblog here.

Live Blog Penn women's basketball vs. Hofstra - NIT Round 1

Bagnoli announces Columbia football staff

For the first time in decades, the hiring of coach Al Bagnoli has fans and alumni of Columbia football excited about the program's future.


Once the dust cleared and Al Bagnoli was Columbia football's head coach, the next question became: Who would be on his staff? Would he take anyone from Penn's current staff?

Well, Bagnoli did raid Ray Priore's staff for one particular coach: Wide receivers coach Mark Fabish. Fabish will coach receivers and will be an associate head coach under Bagnoli at Columbia, leaving a spot to fill for Priore at Penn.

"Mark was the other coach I “recruited” from Penn," Bagnoli said in a release. "Mark served as our wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator as well as a member of my offensive staff, which produced three outright championships. He is a former great player at Penn and part of my first recruiting class. Mark will be a great fit as he is a North Jersey native who played at Bergen Catholic."

Other familiar faces: Jon McLaughlin was let go by Penn after the most recent season as offensive line and offensive coordinator and he will be Bagnoli's offensive line coach. Joseph D'Orazio, who was an All-Ivy offensive lineman for Penn as recently has four years ago, will coach tight ends for Columbia.

Here's the full staff in bullet point form:

  • Offensive coordinator and QB coach: Michael Faragalli
  • Offensive Line coach: Jon McLaughlin
  • Wide receivers coach: Mark Fabish
  • Tight ends coach: Joseph D'Orazio
  • Running backs coach: Todd Gilcrist
  • Defensive coordinator: Paul Ferraro
  • Defensive line coach: Darin Edwards
  • Linebackers coach and special teams coordinator: Justin Stovall
  • Secondary coach and recruiting coordinator: Jon Poppe 

3-on-3: Comparing the two Penn hoops squads

Freshman guard Antonio Woods should figure to be a crucial part of Penn men's basketball's future plans.


Even though their regular seasons have wound down, both Penn men’s and women’s basketball have been in the news of late. As Steve Donahue prepares to take over the men’s team while Mike McLaughlin’s unit enters postseason play once again, our 3-on-3 writers compare the two squads.

1. Who was better in 2014-15: Antonio Woods for the men’s team or Michelle Nwokedi for the women’s side?

Associate Sports Editor Tom Nowlan: Nwokedi. Yes, Woods was certainly a bright spot for the men’s squad, but what Nwokedi was able to do this season was simply stunning. Despite playing relatively few minutes early in the year, the Texas native got better as the season progressed, winning six Ivy League Rookie of the Week nods and establishing herself as a starter. Despite averaging only 18.2 minutes per contest, Nwokedi was able to finish second on the team with 7.1 rebounds per game and scored the Quakers’ third-most points per game with 8.9.

Associate Sports Editor Tommy Rothman: Nwokedi, easily. She averaged nine points per game (slightly more than Woods) in 19 minutes per game (far fewer than Woods). Nwokedi was also a force on the boards, notching seven rebounds per game  also finishing second in the league with 2.3 blocks per contest. It's tough to compare a guard to a forward, but Woods didn't do enough "guard stuff" (passing, steals, hitting threes) to beat out Nwokedi. Penn Rookie of the Year isn't a thing, so Nwokedi will have to be content with the Ivy Rookie of the Year she was awarded last week.

Associate Sports Editor Thomas Munson: I'm leaning towards Nwokedi on this one.  We were spoiled by Stipanovich double-doubles late last season, but Nwokedi was Penn’s leading rebounder over the final four games. Her 6-foot-3 frame made her nearly unstoppable in a relatively vertically challenged Ivy League; yet she can make plays with the ball in space and drain shots like a guard. Woods impressed, but Nwokedi was a driving force behind a winning team and was often a difference maker.

2. Which team’s backcourt is in better shape moving forward?

Nowlan: The men. And it’s all because of one guy: Antonio Woods. Sure, freshman Anna Ross was a valuable cog in the Quakers’ offense this season, but no guard on the women’s squad has the sheer transcendent talent of Woods. He can score in bunches while still effectively operating the point, something that will be really fun to watch for the next three years. Things will get even better for Woods when Tony Hicks graduates and his touches increase even more.

Rothman: The men's team. Anna Ross had a strong season and Beth Brzozowski had some good games, but with Kathleen Roche and Renee Busch both and Keiera Ray a question mark due to injury, I have to give the men their tenth win of the season here. Antonio Woods and Tony Hicks form a dynamic duo in the backcourt, and they'll be joined by incoming freshmen Jake Silpe and Jackson Donahue (no relation to Steve). Matt Howard provides depth, and Jamal Lewis could be a factor, although he, like Ray, must get back on the court first.

Munson: While it's hard not to choose a backcourt led by the dynamic Anna Ross, I definitely have to take the men on this one. Antonio Woods and Matt Howard both have superstar potential for the Red and Blue. What stood out to me most about this season as a whole was Woods' progression. By the final game against Princeton the offense ran through him and he looked more than comfortable taking the reins and running the point. Sure, Hicks will be back next season but I think the last few games proved that there's been a changing of the guard as the team’s core gets younger and deeper. Finding minutes for Hicks, Howard, Woods and Darnell Foreman will be a tough task for Donahue next year.

3. Penn women’s basketball will play in its third consecutive postseason beginning on Thursday. What are the chances that both basketball squads receive postseason bids in 2015-16?

Nowlan: 15 percent. Yes, the women are a lock to finish in one of the Ivy League's top two spots next year and earn a postseason berth, but the men's team has a long way to go to get back to the top of the Ancient Eight. Sure, sophomores-to-be Woods and Mike Auger — along with returning veterans Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry — will bring plenty of talent to the table, but a worst-to-first jump, especially with a new head coach factored in, isn’t that easy.

Rothman: So, how likely is it that the men's team is decent? Why didn't you just ask? Anyway, I'd say 35 percent. The Red and Blue had their moments this past season, especially down the stretch. Steve Donahue is an impressive new hire, the recruiting class is solid, and Penn isn't losing all that much to graduation. But overall, the men's team was very bad this year, so even if they improve, they could still be pretty bad. They won't be playing in the NCAA tournament and the NIT is almost certainly out of the question as well. Could they finish a hair over .500 and get into one of the lesser tournaments? Maybe.

Munson: I might sound crazy, but I'm gonna say 75 percent. The women may be losing a few key seniors but that shouldn't stop them winning their share of league games. For the men's team, I'm incautiously optimistic about the future. They have an excellent young core and an incoming recruiting class that looks strong (assuming it stays intact). Wesley Saunders is graduating from Harvard and there are some depth concerns for Tommy Amaker’s squad. The biggest question mark for Penn is whether any big men not named Mike Auger can play consistent basketball. You can't teach height but you also can't just be tall if you want to win games. Without Greg Louis the Quakers might get challenged a little more on the defensive end, but I have full faith in the Red and Blue’s ability to finish in the top three of the Ancient Eight.

Cornell coach Bill Courtney weighs in on Donahue hiring

Steve Donahue made his mark on the national stage up in Ithaca in his 10-year tenure, leading Cornell to three straight Ivy League titles and a Sweet 16 berth. While Donahue left Cornell for Boston College, his impact is still felt by the Big Red. Now, with Donahue taking the head coaching job at Penn, he’ll face his former squad twice a year. ESPN Ithaca interviewed current Cornell coach Bill Courtney, who took over from Donahue, and asked him about the news.

ESPN: What do you think about the news?

Bill Courtney: It was incredible news today and we had heard a little bit about it the last week or so. Obviously, with the University of the Pennsylvania, you look at Steve: He’s an incredible candidate and obviously the job he did here at Cornell, a legendary job in what he was able accomplish here. He’s a great coach. He’s a great guy. He’s been so supportive of us here at Cornell and I think they did a great job by going out and getting it done to be able to get Steve to come to Penn. It’s a place he’s familiar with, a place he’s [coached] at for close to 10 years, a place in Philadelphia where he grew up.

ESPN: Do you think he’s a good fit then?

BC: "Absolutely," Courtney responded to the question. "I don't know that if you're Penn if you [can] go out and find a better guy than Steve Donahue. Obviously this league has become extremely, extremely difficult and there are quality coaches at every institution and lots of very good players who play in this league now.

"So when you out and get a guy like Steve who you know is a very good coach, I think that speaks well about your program."

ESPN: Bill, after the rough season two years ago … a rough season not just for your Cornell squad with two wins but a tough one for [Boston College]. Steve Donahue let go there and spent this year as an analyst for ESPN. With him being unemployed as a coach entering this season, there were certainly some folks here in this community that said, ‘Hmm… I wonder if Steve could come back.’ You turned this Cornell program around with a 13-win season this year. Now Steve’s out of the mix. Does it feel like things are starting to settle the way it works out for everyone right now?

BC: The way you do it when you have one of these jobs and you’re trying to rebuild your program, you can worry about other things. You can’t worry about things that are going on around you that people talk about. You kind of have to focus on your job and your players and making sure they’re doing the right things on and off the floor.

And we had an idea that we’d be a lot better this year and we’d have a chance to compete in our league and we were able to do that. We’d have liked to have won some more games but we knew we’d be able to compete and we certainly feel that our program is heading in the right direction and we’re on our way up.

Again, Steve’s a great coach and I have tremendous respect for him and I wish him all the best at Penn except for two dates out of the year when we play them. It’s one of those things where the Ivy League was a tough league and I think it got a little bit tougher.

Listen to the rest of the interview here, as Courtney discusses Harvard and his NCAA Tournament picks. 

Women's lacrosse seniors earns pair of weekly awards

Senior attack Tory Bensen will be looked upon to lead the Quakers' offense this year.


Penn women’s lacrosse has certainly picked up where it left off last year.  The No. 14 Quakers are undefeated through their first six games, and after two dominant wins over Saint Joseph’s and Georgetown, seniors Tory Bensen and Meg Markham have been named Ivy League co-Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week respectively.

Bensen notched a combined eight goals in the two games, most notably five goals in a 15-8 win over the Hoyas.  The award is the second of the season for Bensen and third of her career.

The senior leads the Ivy League with 24 goals on the season and is tied for third in the nation in goals per game at 4.0.  Bensen led the Quakers last season with 43 goals, and is well on her way to approaching that mark with 24 in this young season.

Markham — a pre-season All-American — had strong defensive performances as the Quakers held their opponents to a combined nine goals in two games.  The senior had five ground balls, six draw controls and eight caused turnovers during the week to earn her fourth career weekly honor.

The Red and Blue will look to maintain perfection as they take on No. 1 Maryland on Wednesday in College Park in their toughest matchup of the year.

Five Penn wrestlers qualify for 2015 NCAA Championships

Five Penn wrestlers punched their ticket to St. Louis on Wednesday, as the NCAA announced the final list of qualifiers for the 2015 National Tournament.

For three Quakers, the announcement confirmed what they had already known, as junior Lorenzo Thomas, senior Canaan Bethea and senior Brooks Martino earned automatic bids with stellar performances at EIWA Championships on March 6-7.

Thomas, the No. 10 seed entering the upcoming tournament, is no stranger to the national stage. Last year, the then-sophomore went 5-3 in at 184-pound to earn All American honors. Although Bethea missed qualifying for NCAA’s in 2014, he competed in the 184-pound class in 2013, finishing 0-2. Martino, on the other hand, is a first-time qualifier for NCAA’s – the Quakers only first-timer to qualify for the 2015 tournament. Both seniors are unseeded entering the 2015 tournament.

After earning at large bids, sophomore Caleb Richardson and senior C.J. Cobb will join Penn’s trio of automatic-bid earners in St. Louis. Although this will be Richardson’s second trip to NCAA’s, it is his first at 133 pounds. Despite a respectable 25-9 overall season record, the sophomore grappler enters St. Louis without a seed. Cobb, however, earned a No. 13 seed at 149 pounds. Cobb’s last appearance at nationals came in 2013 at 141 pounds, where he finished 2-2.

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