Five starters pass on, but with seven or eight guys just waiting for the chance to inherit the throne, the balance of power in the Ivy League has not changed at all. The 1995-96 Quakers don't necessarily overwhelm opponents like their predecessors did, they just beat them. They aren't always beautiful to watch, just a whole lot of fun. As this weekend showed, what Penn is all about is two or three great players combining with a number of solid ones to execute a system that works to near perfection. Combining for well over half of Penn's points in the Columbia win, co-captains Ira Bowman and Tim Krug proved they are more than capable of carrying their team when necessary. But Saturday night was the first time they have had to do that since an opening-night loss to USC. More illustrative of the secret to Penn's success thus far this season was Friday's game. Bowman and Krug scored 16 apiece, with Donald Moxley and Paul Romanczuk each chipping in 13. Cedric Laster provided a welcome spark off the bench with eight points, as did Frankie Brown, who had two three-pointers, as Penn romped in the first half. And although Bowman and Krug carried the offense load the next night against Columbia, Penn's team defense was astounding. Surely a lot of that had to do with the blatant ineptitude of the Lions' offense -- Columbia simply does not have any weapons. But not one Lion came anywhere close to making half of his shots from the field for the evening, which says a great deal about the Quakers' man-to-man intensity. Sixteen turnovers, most sparked by the ferocity of Penn's on-the-ball pressure, led to numerous fast breaks, several of which were finished off in electrifying fashion by Bowman. There were lapses. Cornell cut a 43-30 halftime deficit to 55-51 with a little over 10 minutes to play. Indeed, Columbia was the only Ivy League opponent to date that didn't make some sort of second-half run on the Quakers. But not once did you ever get the feeling Penn was in danger. The reason goes beyond the players or the coaching or the opponents. It is something that is hard to put into words because it is so abstract and hard to quantify, but that doesn't make it any less true. It's the aura. The aura of a winner. The aura of a dynasty. It is not something the Quakers themselves think about. If they relied on it and overlooked any of their opponents in any way, they would be setting themselves up for a fall. Said Bowman after the Cornell game: "Every game you can't come out thinking you're going to blow a team out. You have to play possession by possession." No, where the aura has its biggest effect is on the rest of the Ancient Eight, which has now been victimized a combined 48 straight times by the Quakers. It has happened so many times this season it almost looks scripted. The opponent makes a run at some point during the second half. The opponent's bench leaps to its feet, thinking just maybe tonight will be the night when The Streak meets its demise. Then it happens. Whether it's Moxley killing Princeton with a couple of three-pointers, Krug's blocked shots down the stretch against Brown, Moxley and Garett Kreitz fending off Yale with a pair of clutch treys or Romanczuk's pretty driving shot against Cornell after the Big Red had closed to four, the Quakers say, "Not tonight." The opponent sags noticeably. "Not tonight," it agrees. This dynasty is not ready to crumble yet.Comments powered by Disqus
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