The Penn men's basketball team went into the half ahead of No. 8 Kansas by a score of 26-19. Kansas men's basketball coach Roy Williams wanted his team to experience the Palestra. He was willing to sacrifice travel time and strength-of-schedule to make the excursion possible. However, he hadn't anticipated sacrificing the No. 8 national ranking, much less his sanity. With 6:15 left in the first-half and the Jayhawks (2-0) trailing Penn 16-13, a mixture of questionable calls and 7,852 screaming, partisan fans got beneath the skin of a usually mellow coach. Williams released his wrath on the closest zebra, official Dick Paparo. The result -- just his seventh technical foul in his 11-year coaching career. With Penn junior Matt Langel hitting the ensuing shots from the charity stripe, the Quakers (0-1) built a five-point lead, 18-13, as even the Kansas players bore facial a expression that implied this game wasn't quite as easy as their victory over Gonzaga. The Jayhawks seemed almost wishing that a double-click of their Nikes would return them to Kansas, where a 61-game home winning streak remained safely intact. "Seven technicals in 11 years of coaching," Williams shouted at the referee. "And that was the cheapest one I ever had." Welcome to the Palestra -- college basketball's most historic arena. As blood rushed through the Kansas head honcho's skull and a newly beat-red face emerged as a perfect complement to his bright-yellow tie, front-row fans, alternating between red-and-blue face paint and guerrilla costumes, celebrated in euphoria. At halftime, Penn was leading 26-19 --Ea margin just three points greater than the mid-contest differential that Kansas faced against Gonzaga in the Jayhawks' season-opener. But with just a 25.9 percent field goal percentage against an Ivy opponent, confidence was clearly knocked down an octave. Thanks to a pair of thunderous Geoff Owens blocks, incredible loose-ball hustle and two clutch Frank Brown jump-shots off-the-bench, the Quakers made the Big-12 Jayhawks look tentative on the offense and troubled defensively. "I was very disappointed at the half," Williams said. "I didn't think we were very aggressive. I felt they were doing more on the offensive boards than we were. Ryan Robertson had two fouls boxing out -- that's the only time I remember us boxing out." But Williams had a method to his madness, sending his troops to West Philadelphia. One can only imagine what the former Dean Smith assistant said to his Jayhawks at halftime because Kansas returned the floor appearing to have learned from the first twenty minutes. After intermission, the Quakers returned equally as aggressive and the fans proved no less rowdy. But the Jayhawks -- a team that shot so poorly from the floor in the first half -- returned to the Palestra hardwood en fuego, lighting it up on 15-of-20 shots from the field. "In the second half, we were far more aggressive offensively, getting the ball into Eric Chenowith," Williams said. "Kenny Gregory was bakin' in the second half. He hadn't done much of anything in the first half. "There was the tale of two cities, this was the tale of two halves." As the Quakers front-court of Paul Romanczuk, Jed Ryan and Owens each picked up their fourth personal fourth personal foul in the latter twenty minutes -- and then Romanczuk fouled out with 3:06 remaining -- foul trouble again took its toll on Penn against a No. 8-ranked opponent. When the Red and Blue last hit the hardwood eight months ago, foul trouble likewise proved the difference again then No. 8 Princeton. But beyond the Penn's foul trouble and a couple debatable no-calls against Kansas in the closing minute, the Jayhawks executed the things they needed in the closing minutes to maintain their ranking. Leading by one, 57-56, Chenowith mustered a steal on Owens and passed to Terry Nooner who dribbled up-court and dished to Gregory for two. Strong defense again on the other end then forced Penn to settle for a falling-down Jed Ryan three-point prayer, as he hoped for a foul call with 1.9 seconds left. The Quakers fouled the pursuing in-bounds pass and the freshman Jeff Boschee maturely stroked both from the line. "We wanted to have one of our three-point shooters, in this case Jed, get himself in the gap and spotted-up,"Dunphy said. Kansas just didn't let it happen. With the game concluded, one wonders if Penn entered the nailbiter as underrated or if Kansas entered overrated. The truth remains unclear, likely lying somewhere in between. One thing is certain, however. Even if their ranking falls, the Jayhawks are a better team now when they entered the Palestra. Applaud Penn for a solid effort, but the Roy Williams gamble payed-off.Comments powered by Disqus
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