Penn clinched the Ivy title in front of the Palestra faithful. After clinching the Ivy League title and ensuring themselves a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, the members of the Penn men's basketball team did what they'd been waiting their entire collegiate careers to do -- cut down the nets in front of 5,000 cheering fans in the historic Palestra. Penn has not clinched a championship in the storied confines of its home arena since 1994, so even for seniors Michael Jordan, Matt Langel and Frank Brown, climbing the ladder on Saturday night was a novel experience. "It feels especially good for me because it's my fifth year," Brown said. "We were co-champions my freshman year, so to finally win in front of all these great fans that we have at the Palestra -- it's just a great feeling." The weekend's victories over Brown and Yale gave Penn a 13-0 Ivy record and an insurmountable two-game lead over Princeton. The win over Yale on Saturday gives Penn a 20-7 record for the year with one game left. After early season struggles, including an embarrassing 105-59 blowout loss to Kansas on January 4 and nonconference losses to national powerhouses Kentucky, Auburn and Temple as well as to Penn State and Villanova , the Quakers are now riding a 15-game winning streak – the second longest streak in Division I. The team's final game is tommorrow, against the hated Princeton Tigers in a sold-out Palestra. Despite the insignificance of the game in terms of the league championship, the Quakers are clearly gunning for their perennial archrival. "A lot of teams have won championships, but not a lot of teams have gone undefeated in the league. That's something that's hard to do," Langel said. Jordan, the team's star point guard whose 1,571 points rank him third on the Penn men's basketball all time list, certainly got into the celebration. After most pieces of the net had been distributed, the senior took what was left of it, climbed up on the naked rim and swung the net around like he was training for a rodeo as spectators screamed "M-V-P" for the Ivies' dominant player. The "M-V-P" cheer for Jordan was popular throughout Penn's season, along with the traditional "Let's Go Quakers," various pleas for cheesesteaks and the infamous airball chant. "Our fans are really great. They have come through basically all year long for us," said Quakers head coach Fran Dunphy, who has now won five Ivy League titles in his 11 years at Penn. "There are a lot of loyal people who love Penn basketball and I think it shows every time we play." The Quakers just have to look behind their own bench to find one such loyal fan. Susan Arenschield, whose father was a former Penn assistant athletic director, has perfected her "Go Frankie!" shout for Brown. "I've been rooting for him for five years for no reason," Arenschield said. "I've never met him, I just think he does better when I scream for him. He knows someone's out there. My mom and I come to every game. She's been coming for 80 years." Another Penn fan who is hard to miss is College junior Alex Moskowitz, who paints his face red and blue for every game. "We're going to the tourney and we're going to win a game, baby," Moskowitz said. "We're going to win at least one." And an NCAA Tournament victory would please College senior Ryan Orr. He said that at this point in his career as a Penn fan, rushing the court after winning an Ivy championship leaves something to be desired. "I've done it three times, and it's getting old. We need to win a tournament game before anybody gets really excited," Orr said. Others would beg to differ, though. "I mean, winning the Ivy League championship -- it's awesome to see the crowd so excited," Wharton senior Steve Rubin said. "When they get loud and then all of the sudden it's deafening out there and everyone runs out on the court -- it's the best." The Quakers now look toward the NCAA Tournament, where they hope to go further than last year in Seattle, when they made an early first-round exit with a loss to Florida. This year, possible first-round venues include Buffalo, N.Y.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Tucson, Ariz.; Cleveland; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Birmingham, Ala. The tournament bracket will be announced on Sunday.Comments powered by Disqus
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