Jordan and Langel say goodbye to Palestra by leading M. Hoops win There were 14 minutes and 19 seconds left in the Penn men's basketball game against Princeton last night. The Tigers, after trailing by as many as 21, had just gone on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 12. And most of the Penn fans in the sold-out Palestra crowd all thought the same thing. Not again. The fans remembered back to February 9, 1999, when the Quakers blew a 33-9 halftime lead to lose by a heartbreaking score of 50-49. But that disaster would not be repeated thanks mostly to the senior backcourt leadership of Michael Jordan and Matt Langel. Playing in their final game at the Palestra, Jordan and Langel stepped to the forefront and led the team to victory. Following a C.J. Chapman three-pointer that capped the Princeton run, Langel found Jordan cutting through the middle for an easy layup, and the Quakers were back on track. "When they cut the lead, we knew we had to step up and stop the run, and I think we did that," Jordan said. "Guys stepped up and made some big shots." Following the layup, Chapman sunk another three-pointer. But the Quakers did not panic, and Jordan spotted up from beyond the arc at the other end and responded by nailing another clutch shot. Later in the game, the Tigers clawed back to pull within 10, 55-45, but unlike in last year's debacle, the Langel-Jordan backcourt stayed poised throughout the game and did not allow the Tigers to cut into the lead any further. On the next trip down the court, Jordan hit Penn center Geoff Owens, who scored to increase the lead. On the Penn possession after that, Langel did the same, finding Owens for another bucket. "We're a totally different team from last year," Jordan said. "They had a lot of veterans last year. This year we have the veterans. We were prepared. We knew they were going to make a run. We just had to withstand it." And withstand it they did. Langel nailed his third three-pointer of the game with 3:44 left in the game, vaulting him past Garett Kreitz and into second place on Penn's all-time list. The bomb from downtown also put Penn up by 17 points, which the Quakers extended to 21 to win 73-52. While the crowd may have worried about a Princeton comeback, Penn coach Fran Dunphy did not think about it, knowing the type of leadership his co-captains provide. "I felt as good going into tonight's game about what [Langel and Jordan] were going to do as I have all year long and as I have anytime they've been playing for us," Dunphy said. "There was a feeling that they knew what they had to do, and there was a sense that Matt and Mike would step up and make big shots and that's exactly what they did. They played great defensively and did everything you would want from senior leadership." The Tigers' second-half run was not the only time that Langel and Jordan rose to the occasion last night. The Quakers went on a 17-0 run that began with 6:52 left in the first half and ended with 16:59 left in the second. Jordan was the main contributor to the run, coming up with a steal and a breakaway layup in the final seconds of the first stanza and an assist and a basket in the opening two minutes of the second. "I guess I had a little extra energy tonight," Jordan said. "I was feeding off the crowd, I know when I got that steal I was really high over the rim. We talked about making a statement within the first five minutes after halftime, and I think we did that." Both guards ended the game with impressive numbers. Jordan had 25 points -- two shy of his career high -- along with six rebounds and three steals. Langel had 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from three-point land. He also tied a career high in assists with eight to go along with four boards. "Mike was able to get to the rim and get some open shots. I didn't get a lot of looks, but I thought I was able to set some people up for some good buckets," Langel said. "The second half I got more screens off the ball, and my teammates got me open for some threes." While Penn's guards clearly illustrated what leadership means to a team, Princeton coach Bill Carmody did not put much stock in the experience factor. "We have guys that have played before -- they're 19, 20 years old -- so I don't like that out," Carmody said of the Quakers, four of whom have been playing together for four years. "It might be a factor, but I don't want our guys to think that it is. You can win with sophomores." Jordan and Langel's veteran inspiration will certainly help the Quakers as they enter the NCAA Tournament next week. Last year, Penn had an 11-point halftime lead over Florida in the first round, but then closed up shop in the second half to lose, 75-61. "The two guys in the backcourt are better than they were [last year]," Dunphy said of the senior duo's readiness for the Big Dance. "They were good last year, but now they understand how hard it's going to be. But they also understand that they can go there and do some damage."Comments powered by Disqus
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