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Sophomore guard Tim Begley elevates for a shot against the Tigers. [J.S. Taylor/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

Just 21 seconds into the first half of last night's matchup of rivals, Penn forward Ugonna Onyekwe made his presence felt. Scoring the first points of the game, the senior took a feed from teammate Andrew Toole, turned and dunked the ball over Princeton's defense. The tone was set. It is very tempting to call last night a breakthrough game, but it was not. For the first time this season, Onyekwe showed up to play -- to dominate. Penn fans have known, for a long time, that Onyekwe has the potential to do what he did. It's just that he had never put every element of his game together in one single night. Maybe it was that first play, maybe it was the fans going wild in the stands, maybe it was the defeated looks on the Tigers' faces. Whatever it was, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year took the spotlight and ran -- and never looked back. Onyekwe finished the night with daunting statistics -- 22 points, 12 rebounds, one block and one steal. Not bad, but those numbers don't tell it all. "He's a terrific player," Princeton coach John Thompson III said after the game. "He definitely hurt us." Onyekwe dominated the game in a way that transcended the box score and demoralized the Tigers. It's one thing to knock down routine jumpers; it's another to dunk emphatically enough to elevate the Palestra's emotion to a fevered pitch. Onyekwe's antics deflated the Princeton bench and rallied his teammates. "I think he played awesome. He really looked like a man amongst boys out there," Toole said. "We rode him pretty much through the second half and he carried us to a victory. "We knew that we could get it to him and he was going to get us buckets." When the Princeton guards put pressure on the outside -- attempting to shut down Penn's 43.8-percent three-point shooting -- Onyekwe stepped up inside. When fellow forward Koko Archibong collected his third foul with 17:54 remaining and was effectively taken out of the remainder of the game, Onyekwe stepped up without hesitation. He controlled the inside by himself so well that Penn coach Fran Dunphy switched to a four-guard lineup. No need for another big man last night with Onyekwe in the game. "He just said 'I want the ball,' and when he got it he did something real positive with it, each and every time," Dunphy said. Onyekwe was there on defense, too. For the majority of the game, he shut down UCLA-transfer Spencer Gloger, Princeton's leading scorer. Ugonna nearly logged five steals on the night, but the grabs were just out of his reach. "He's very athletic," Princeton forward Konrad Wysocki said. "He's constantly running around. It's hard to get around him." "I knew I'd be guarding Gloger," Onyekwe said. "I took it as a challenge. I wanted to be as effective as possible." What's more, Onyekwe showed emotion on the floor of the Palestra last night an aspect of his game that often seems lacking.

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