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Polytechnic School '96

Pasadena, Calif.

With the clock winding under four minutes at the Palestra on March 7 and Penn thoroughly dominating archrival Princeton on the hardwood, there was little left to do but celebrate.

So Quakers senior guard Matt Langel did exactly that by firing a perfect lob pass to Geoff Owens, who rammed it home with a reverse dunk.

That got the standing-room-only crowd into the act, as the first chants of "Undefeated" began to echo in the very rafters where another Ivy League Championship banner will soon be lifted.

When the final horn sounded, the scoreboard read 73-52 in favor of the Quakers. More important to the hundreds of fans rushing the floor and the players they were about to embrace was the Quakers' Ivy League record -- a perfect 14-0.

The Quakers lost by 10 points to Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but their Ivy League winning streak stands at 21.

After so many classic battles in recent years, this latest Penn-Princeton showdown was relatively short on drama. Princeton led, 3-0, two minutes in after freshman Spencer Gloger knocked down an open three from the top of the key. But by the first television timeout with 14:42 to play, Penn was ahead, 4-3. The Quakers would never trail again. Penn was up by at least 10 points for the entirety of the second session.

"The game was lost right in the beginning," Tigers coach Bill Carmody said. "We got some pretty decent looks early and missed them."

In its first visit to the Palestra since coming back from a 27-point deficit for a 50-49 win in February 1999, Princeton did its best to make the Palestra's west basket look like a rigged carnival game, making just four of its 20 first-half shots and limping off to the locker room down 26-13.

Penn tried to shut the door on Princeton with an 8-0 run to start the second half. The Quakers frontcourt continued to work to perfection, helping to open the floor for perimeter shooting by Langel, who followed a bagel in the first half with 11 second-half points. The Quakers shot an Ivy-season best 56.6 percent from the field for the game -- not bad against a Princeton defense that was ranked sixth in Division I field-goal percentage defense (36.2 percent).

But this being Penn-Princeton, one team could never completely dominate the other, and the clincher on Penn's undefeated season was no exception. Coming out of a timeout with 7:30 to play, Gloger knocked down a three off a feed from Young to bring the Tigers within 10. Two free throws by Onyekwe and another bucket by Gloger made the score 55-45 with five minutes to play, but that would be as close as Princeton would get.

"When they cut it to 10, we knew we needed to stop the run," Jordan said. However, he and Dunphy both dismissed the notion that the team was having flashbacks to last year's Palestra shocker.

Seven straight points by the Quakers did more than stop the run -- it effectively ended the game. A three-pointer by Langel off a feed from Owens with 3:44 left capped the run.

The Quakers ran the lead all the way to 24 before Jordan, Langel and fifth-year senior Frank Brown were called to the bench one final time in their home and Ivy League careers. That left the floor to senior Mike Koller, the fourth recruit from the fall of 1996 along with Jordan, Langel and Owens. Koller, who had played JV the past three seasons, suited up for the varsity finale and made the most of his opportunity by making one of two free throws with 23 seconds to play.

While the loudest ovations were given to the seniors that night, they were not the only ones on display. Onyekwe put the final touches on his Ivy Rookie of the Year season by throwing in 20 points in 39 minutes of action. Owens, who will be back for a fifth year after a medical condition derailed his sophomore campaign, added 14.

"[Owens] was as relaxed and poised as I have ever seen him," Dunphy said of the center, who uncharacteristically dished six assists while grabbing only three rebounds.

Following the Princeton game, it was time for both teams to begin pondering the postseason. The Tigers went to the NIT for the second straight year while Penn went to the Big Dance in Winston-Salem, N.C., and lost to the Illini.

But the last words on the future were best left to the player most responsible for getting them through the Ancient Eight season unscathed, the Ivy League Player of the Year.

"We like winning," Jordan said. "We want to keep it going as long as possible."

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