I remember it like it was two days ago.
With just 1.4 seconds left, Penn senior Mark Zoller was fouled shooting a three. The senior approached the line with a chance to tie the game and perhaps take a one- or two-point lead.
Swish, swish, swish — and just like that the Red and Blue Crew stormed the court, we in the band got to play our victory songs, and Penn won a Big 5 contest by two points over Temple. To date, it’s the most memorable game I’ve witnessed as a Penn student.
It was also the last Big 5 win I — and the rest of the Class of 2010 — will ever see.
Now flash forward three years to Monday night’s game. Zoller, former star forward for the Quakers, is in the house, but he’s wearing a polo shirt instead of a Penn jersey. And after tying St. Joe’s — by far the most beatable Big 5 team Penn has faced this year – at 27-27 with 5:48 left in the first half, the Quakers give up a 54-19 run en route to an 85-64 drubbing and a record-setting 13th straight Big 5 loss. The few students that do show up leave early, and we in the band are resigned to playing just the Red and Blue.
As a second-semester senior, I can’t think of a more disappointing way to end my Big 5 spectator career, especially with Zoller’s free throws dancing in my mind.
It’s reached the point where a game against St. Joe’s isn’t even discussed within the context of the Big 5.
According to my colleagues who covered the game Monday, the Big 5 “wasn’t even mentioned” in the postgame press conference. “No one really took that angle,” senior sports writer Ari Seifter told me.
That’s a real shame. Just because the Quakers have hit a rough patch in the city series — and by rough patch, I mean the worst Big 5 losing streak in its 55 year history — does not mean Penn’s role should be diminished or that it should not be considered part of the Big 5 tradition.
If nothing else, having Big 5 games is good for the atmosphere at the Palestra.
Despite the Quakers’ woes, the three Big 5 games at Penn have had the top attendance of any home games this season. I’m not going to be naive and pretend that the majority of those crowds were Penn fans, but every now and then during these contests — like when Penn tied it up Monday — the bursts from the crowd remind you what a college basketball game should be.
And while Penn last won the Big 5 in 2001-02, a 2-2 Big 5 run like the one in 2006-07 might not be too far off. Perhaps it will even occur sometime in the next three to five years, for that matter.
And if Tyler Bernardini finally gets healthy (he has missed 15 out of the last 17 games), Rob Belcore goes from a sophomore slump to a junior resurgence (his field goal percentage is down from .480 to .307), Mike Howlett returns and keeps improving (he increased his points per game by 7.0 before an injury) and the rest of the Quakers remember how to handle the ball (they gave up 27 turnovers Monday), the Quakers should snap the streak next year.
Let’s hope so, because while I can reminisce about Zoller’s crucial foul shots, I shudder for the Class of 2011, which might entirely miss beating a city rival.
ZACH KLITZMAN is a senior history major from Bethesda, Md., and a former Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be contacted at email@example.comComments powered by Disqus
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