Penn's men's basketball team remained perfect in the Big 5 with its win. As the Penn men's basketball team took the floor last night at La Salle's Tom Gola Arena, it was with an air of sadness. The Quakers were without the cheering of No. 1 fan Fran Dunphy Sr., father of Penn coach Fran Dunphy Jr., who passed away last Sunday morning. Playing in Dunphy's memory, the Quakers kept their composure and defeated La Salle 62-58 in a Big 5 victory which invoked memories of Knute Rockne and "Win one for the Gipper." "He is still in my memory -- two rows behind our bench," Penn forward Paul Romanczuk said. "He was a big part of our program. It was an emotional game for us." During a three-minute scoreless drought with less than five minutes remaining in the game, the Quakers hustle was the only thing that kept their hope of a victory alive. With a two-point lead and less than a minute remaining, a diving save by senior forward Jed Ryan gave the Quakers (7-3, 2-0 Big 5) an opportunity to put the Explorers (6-8, 0-2) away. On the ensuing play, the plan to get Romanczuk the ball in the post failed and the Quakers found themselves in a desperate situation. Again it was Ryan's heads-up play that saved Penn as he set a pick to free up Quakers guard Michael Jordan. The open look was all that Jordan -- Penn's leading scorer this year -- needed as he nailed a 15-foot baseline jump shot with only 18 seconds remaining, solidifying the win for the Quakers. "That was where the game was won," Romanczuk said. "Jed took down the scorers' table to get to the ball and got another offensive rebound off of my shot to beat the shot clock. We just outworked La Salle at the end. We beat them to loose balls." Averaging almost 13 shots a game, Jordan was limited to only two shots in the first half and finished the game with eight. Along with containing Jordan's explosiveness, the Explorers' defense held the Quakers to only four three-point baskets, less than half their season average. "We did what we wanted to do defensively," La Salle coach Bill "Speedy" Morris said. "If you would have told me that they would have four three-pointers, I would tell you that we would probably win the game." While the Penn outside game was quieted, power forward Romanczuk more than picked up the slack on the inside. Romanczuk finished the game with 24 points on 11-of-13 shooting and eight rebounds, almost triple his scoring average. Able to take his La Salle defender to the basket with ease, Romanczuk felt his stellar performance came from being in the right place at the right time. "When Mike is driving to the basket, you just want to find an opening," Romanczuk said. "He is a great passer. A couple of times, I just laid the ball in. It wasn't a tough night for me." As the Quakers jumped out to a 16-6 lead in the early going, it seemed that Penn would have little problem controlling the Explorers, who lost 82-64 last year to the Quakers at the Palestra. But a more balanced offense and the addition of high school All-American Rasual Butler kept La Salle in the game until the end. The freshman sensation's fifth three-pointer of the night gave the Explorers a 51-47 lead with 9:41 left in the game. "I have been listening to what people have been telling me -- to relax out there," Butler said. "I was coming off the screen and saw that my man wasn't getting through. I just took my time and shot the ball." Instead of relying solely on junior guard Donnie Carr, who ranked sixth in the nation in scoring his freshman year, La Salle spread the ball around. Senior K'Zell Wesson chipped in 19 points, while Butler led the way for the Explorers with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including 5-of-10 from three-point range. "Getting the ball to K'Zell is always part of our game plan," Morris said. "Donnie has done a really good job of that. K'Zell is not as tall as most guys he plays against, but he is so strong that he can score inside." Although not effective against Butler, the Quakers' shifting defense on the perimeter limited Carr to only nine points, 12 less than his season average. "We jumped out and switched a lot," Penn guard Matt Langel said. "That style of defense threw them off a little bit. Rasual had a great night but Donnie did not have as good of a night. That was fortunate for us." The victory kept the Quakers undefeated in the Big 5 and extended their winning streak to four games. Penn finishes its Big 5 schedule playing at home against St. Joseph's January 18 and at Villanova on February 23. Penn has not won the Big 5 since 1981 and has not finished undefeated in the city series, while playing all four teams, since 1974.Comments powered by Disqus
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