NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- We're just three days into March and there is already one team with a ticket to March Madness. Penn clinched the Ivy League title tonight with a 57-55 win over Yale, and got some help from Brown who beat second-place Princeton. That gives Penn both the outright league title and its automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. It is the second time in as many years that Penn was the first team into the Big Dance. That was the goal all along. "This being my last year its such a great feeling knowing that we've accomplished it," said senior guard Eric Osmundson. "But we want more. We're happy to be there but we're going to stay focused and hopefully keep advancing." The Quakers (19-7, 11-1 Ivy) needed a pair of foul shots from junior Steve Danley to seal the win after going scoreless for the final six minutes. Yale (15-13, 7-6) got a last-second shot from sophomore Eric Flato, but the jumper from the foul line cleared the basket by a good two feet. Penn had led by as many as 17 in the first half and took a 33-21 maring into the locker room. Yale slowly began to chip away over the final 12 minutes. As the Quakers' offense went cold, the home team was scoring on virtually every possession down the stretch. "It was a little bit of a roller coaster ride," said junior Mark Zoller. "They started to hit their shots and got the crowd back into it. It was kind of a little chaotic." It was starting to become Columbia redux, a mirror image of Penn's only Ivy loss this season. "The Yale guys really turned up the screws defensively," said Penn coach Fran Dunphy, who won his 10th league championship in 17 seasons. "We needed to be more patient. We needed to be exact in what we were doing." As the Elis drew closer, the notoriously vociferous home crowd got louder and louder. "I really don't notice by that point in the game," Osmundson said. "I try to focus on each possession. I just thought we did some stupid things down the stretch and kind of forced it a little bit." But where they needed to make plays, the Quakers made them. Penn found itself clinging to a two-point edge with 27 seconds to play when sophomore Brian Grandieri drove to the basket but missed a 5-footer in the lane. Zoller fought hard and came up with the critical rebound and kicked it out to Ibrahim Jaaber who was fouled. The next 11 seconds were the ball game. "Knowing that we were going to get fouled, what we were trying to do was get the ball to Ibby in the back court and let him run around a little bit to kill some time," Dunphy said. "After that we were just trying to set our defense and try to switch everything up to put as much pressure we could to make them spend some time in the back court." It didn't exactly go as planned. Danley received the in-bounds and was fouled. After his two free throws, Yale was able to fight through the Quakers press and get a 9-footer to fall from Ross Morin. Then Grandeiri's in-bounds pass sailed over the head of Osmundson, setting up Yale's last-second try. "I thought oh, not again," Osmundson said. "I remember my first year here was a similar situation." Yale won that game, 54-52, in January 2003. Not tonight. The pre-season favorites for the Ivy title showed why they were picked No. 1. It all came down to Penn's strong start, outscoring the Elis 31-14 over the fist 14 minutes. "It was critical for us," Dunphy said. "I thought our guys did a good job early on, but you know they are going to make a run." Yale senior Dominick Martin led all scorers with 18. Danley finished with 12 points while Zoller had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Osmundson led the team with 15 points. The Quakers needed all of them. Brown's 61-46 win over Princeton was a bonus. It knocked the Tigers out of contention, nullifying the remainder of the Ivy slate and sending Penn on the road to its 24th title. "It's a great accomplishment for this particular group of guys," Dunphy said. "I'm very happy for them just because we talk about it so much. I get ad nauseum with these guys the opportunity to sit in that room and watch on where you're going in an NCAA Tournament game; there's nothing better in this world." For a play-by-play account of the game visit. The Buzz.Comments powered by Disqus
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