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Penn guard Andrew Toole was one of three Quakers to score 17 points last night. [Will Burhop/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

Penn - 62 Princeton - 38

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PRINCETON, N.J. -- The Penn men's basketball team headed up the Jersey Turnpike last night looking for a win to stay in the race for the Ivy League title.

What the Quakers came home with was their most resounding victory of the season.

In front of 6,854 shocked fans at Jadwin Gym, the Quakers (17-6, 4-3 Ivy League) annihilated Princeton (10-9, 5-2), 62-38, and left New Jersey with their NCAA tournament hopes alive and well.

"This is as good a win as we've had this season," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said.

The Quakers erupted out of the starting blocks last night, taking the usually-rowdy Jadwin Jungle crowd out of the game from the opening whistle.

After Princeton forward Ray Robins hit a three to give the Tigers their first points of the game at the 16:46 mark, Penn went on a monstrous 20-0 spurt that had the Tigers reeling.

Before anyone in the gym could catch their breath, the scoreboard read 24-3 in favor of the visitors, and the game was all but over.

"That was the worst possible scenario that could happen against [Penn]," Princeton coach John Thompson III said.

After Penn's run, the Tigers did go on an 8-0 spurt of their own to claw within 13, but that was as close as they would come.

In a perfect punctuation to the first half, Penn point guard Andrew Toole buried a long three right in Kyle Wente's face and kept his arm raised in triumph as he and his teammates raced into the tunnel. The Quakers led, 37-15, at the intermission after a first half that they flat-out dominated.

"Early on in the first half we got what we wanted but the ball just didn't go in," a visibly distraught Thompson said after the game. "Against a team like [Penn], that can't happen. They just have too many weapons to fall behind."

In the first half, everything seemed to click for the visitors, while virtually nothing went right for Princeton. Shooting a woeful 25 percent in the first stanza, the Tigers clanked iron from all over the court, missing three-pointers, layups and short jumpers alike.

A lot of the credit has to go to Penn's choking man-to-man defense, which immobilized Princeton's methodical offense -- the Tigers only backdoor pass resulted in a missed Mike Bechtold layup.

But the general consensus from both teams after the game was that -- defense aside -- Princeton simply couldn't find the bottom of the net.

"I thought we defended well, although I will say this -- I thought they had a lot of open looks and the ball just wouldn't go down," Dunphy said. "I thought we guarded well, but I also thought they had some looks and just missed shots."

"I don't think it was their defense," added freshman guard Will Venable, who led Princeton with 11 points and was the only member of the Tigers to score in double figures. "We just couldn't hit our shots."

Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor, the Quakers were lighting it up. Penn shot 54.5 percent from the field in the opening half, and knocked down 7 of 15 from behind the arc.

Needless to say, when shots are falling on one end and rimming out at the other, a blowout is almost always in order.

And when the Tigers continued to miss shots early in the second half -- Princeton shot an anemic 27.5 percent for the game -- their frustration began to mount.

"I think they started to get a little frustrated in the second half," Toole said. "They were looking for some foul calls, and it seemed like they had a lot of balls go in and out on them. I think that kind of wore on them."

Princeton left its zone in favor of a full-court press to try to claw back into the game, but even that couldn't slow down the Quakers. Penn's 22-point halftime lead never dwindled below 16.

Leading the way for the Quakers was the same trio that has been carrying the bulk of the Quakers' scoring load all season.

Toole, along with forwards Ugonna Onyekwe and Koko Archibong all went for 17 points. Combined, Penn's triple threat shot 18 for 31 and hauled in 20 rebounds.

A Toole-to-Onyekwe alley oop midway through the second half elated the Red and Blue faithful, buried in the upper sector of Jadwin, while the Orange and Black fans watched in dazed silence.

"The crowd has always been real good here," Dunphy said. "I hope they didn't get into it because we were playing well."

Approximately five seconds after the final whistle, the scoreboard went completely blank, and that's probably because nobody at Princeton wanted to see a final score that read 62-38 in favor of the nemesis Quakers, the Tigers' worst loss of the season.

But for Penn, last night's game was an emphatic victory, one the Quakers hope will motivate them for the final seven games of the season.

"Hopefully, this can be a catalyst for the rest of the season," Toole said. "It should give us some confidence and spark us through for the rest of the way."

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