Penn center Geoff Owens turned 22 on Wednesday. This weekend, Owens celebrated his birthday in style at the Palestra, helping the Quakers to stand tall over the rest of the Ivy League competition for their second consecutive Ancient Eight title. Owens has been through it all over the past four years at Penn, from the toils of a 12-14 season to the agony and uncertainty of sitting out a year with a medical condition to the elation of back-to-back Ivy League championships. And this weekend, Owens, like the team, was at his best. The man in the middle had a career night on Friday as the Quakers clinched a tie for the league title against Brown, then brought the house down again on Saturday as Penn wrapped up the title by beating Yale. The school's all-time leading shot blocker bolted from the gate against the Bears, swatting the first of his six shots just 18 seconds into the action. He finished the night with 50 blocks on the season, making him the first man in Penn history to amass 50 rejections in two different seasons. Owens is also the only Red and Blue player ever to record 40 or more blocks in three seasons. By the time Friday night ended, Owens exploited the undersized Brown frontcourt -- specifically 6'6" center Alaivaa Nuualiitia -- for a career-high 22 points, along with 11 rebounds, all in a scant 27 minutes as Penn demolished the Bears by 23 points. "We're very undermanned in the frontcourt," Brown coach Glenn Miller said. "It seems like the opposition's frontcourt players always have their best games against us. We're playing a 6'6" five man. We just don't have the personnel or the physical presence to cover low." Miller's estimation is fair enough, and Owens freely noted himself that his offensive explosion was facilitated by Brown's lack of frontcourt size. But championship teams take advantage of the weaknesses of their opponents, which is just what Owens did with his explosive night at the Palestra on Friday. The Bears' lack of size in the paint has not stopped Nuualiitia from averaging an impressive 14.2 points per game and earning honors as Ivy League Rookie of the Week five times this season. Friday night, though, Nuualiitia scored five points, shooting a ghastly 2-for-9 from the floor. "It's kind of my job to help my teammates out," Owens said. "It's my job to deflect a shot or make a guy miss. It's a personal challenge every time a guy comes down the lane or shoots, I want to bother his shot, make him miss." Owens did just that on Friday night -- his six blocked shots were the only ones registered by anyone in the game. And in the face of Ugonna Onyekwe's four fouls, Owens was particularly careful to not force himself out of the game as well. Owens did not pick up any fouls until four minutes into the second half. "Geoff Owens and Ugonna are back there changing shots and blocking shots," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "Ugonna had a tough night being in foul trouble? but we had a guy back there who could get the job done." Although Penn's big man did not put on the scoring exhibition against Yale -- tallying 10 points in 35 minutes -- that he did the night before, Owens was dominant in the paint, hauling in seven boards and blocking one shot. Without center Neil Yanke, Yale's starting frontcourt trio of John Kirkowski, Ted Smith and Bill Parkhurst combined to play 90 minutes. Together, they shot 5-for-15 from the floor, scoring just 13 of the Elis' 52 points. The three also combined to pull down a meager 13 rebounds. And when Owens did score on Saturday night, he really made his presence felt. Eight of his 10 points came in the second half, four of which were on dunks that whipped up the Palestra crowd into a frenzy. With 9:58 remaining in the game, Owens' first dunk brought Penn's lead back up to 10 points for the first time in over eight-and-a-half minutes. He rose over the fray underneath the goal to put home a David Klatsky miss and get Penn back on its way home to the title. When Yale drew to within seven points with 4:30 to play, it was again Owens who answered, taking a Matt Langel pass and clearing the lane for the dunk that started chants of "Ivy Champs" in the Palestra. Owens went above the rim once more on Saturday night -- with a pair of scissors to take down the net.Comments powered by Disqus
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