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Penn junior Ugonna Onyekwe launches a jump shot over La Salle's Rasual Butler. The forward had 13 of his 15 points in Tuesday's win in the second half. [Will Burhop/DP File Photo]

On one end of the Palestra, a large Penn banner reigns supreme among four other pennants.

Directly across the gym, another Penn banner hangs amidst seven other pennants, not quite as high as the one on the other end.

At least not yet.

See, the east end of college basketball's most historic gym displays the five Philadelphia schools that make up the storied Big 5. For Penn, that end has already been perfected.

On the Palestra's west end, there are eight banners of each of the Ancient Eight schools. The Quakers hope to soon reign supreme on that end as well.

After a successful 4-0 out-of-conference stretch, the Big 5 champion Quakers (14-4, 1-1 Ivy League) will re-enter the Ivy portion of their schedule this weekend with two home games against Cornell and Columbia. And with an less-than-perfect 1-1 conference record, Fran Dunphy's troops are quite anxious to show the Ivy League the same thing they showed the Big 5.

"Now we got to get back to business and concentrate on these next 12 games in the Ivy League," junior guard Duane King said. "Teams are gunning for us and these next 12 games are going to be very important."

Important, of course, because of the implications. While a Big 5 title is a tremendous accomplishment, an Ivy championship equals a free ticket to the NCAA tournament -- and that's where the Quakers want to be in March.

"I think this is a group of guys who have a good sense of the history and the tradition of the Big 5 and what it meant for them to go 4-0," Dunphy said. "But they also understand that when we go back to league play, that's the most important part of our season."

The first of Penn's 12 straight league games comes tonight at 7 p.m. when a familiar face makes a return to the Palestra.

Steve Donahue, a long-time Penn assistant and second-year Cornell head coach, will surely look forward to his West Philly reunion, but would still love a win against his former boss.

"He knows as much about us as we know about ourselves," Dunphy said. "So they'll have a plan. Three of our last four games were on t.v., so they have film and they're looking at that very closely I'm sure. They're coming up with strategies that we haven't even thought of yet that they might combat us with."

Cornell (3-14, 0-4) has had quite the miserable season this year, sporting a woeful 301 RPI ranking out of 324 Division I teams and struggling through an equally grim 13-game road losing streak.

Dunphy attributes this failure to youth, and is quite confident that with time, Donahue will turn this reeling program around.

"I think Steve -- as he proved when he was here -- is an outstanding teacher of the game and an outstanding recruiter," Dunphy said. "Right now, they're awful young. Once they got started, he's going to have an outstanding program there."

But that time is not now, and the Quakers should be able to hand their old friend a friendly "L."

The Red and Blue might have a little bit more trouble on Saturday, when Craig Austin, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, pays a visit to the Palestra.

The senior forward, who is averaging 16.6 points per game this season, hopes to carry Columbia (9-9, 2-2) to an upset over the Quakers, just as he did in New York last year.

"Craig Austin is a very good talent," Dunphy said. "He can play inside and out. He's got a good mid-range game which is always tough to defend."

Dunphy is also a bit apprehensive about the Lions' stifling defense, which has held opponents under 40 percent shooting for the season, a mark that Penn has strived for but has not quite accomplished.

"What we've done out of conference really doesn't mean anything," the Quakers head man explained. "These teams are coming in here and they want to beat us."

But the Quakers know they must not let that happen, not if they want the Ivy crown back in their hands after a year hiatus.

"Our whole attitude is winning, winning," King said. "Whatever it takes."

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