Coming into the 1973-74 Penn men’s basketball season, saying that expectations were high was an understatement.
The Quakers, winners of four consecutive Ivy League titles and coming off a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1973, had their sights set even further. They were led by the future Hall of Fame and NBA Championship coach Chuck Daly, who was in his third season with Penn. Despite losing leading scorer Phil Hankinson, who was taken 35th overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1973 NBA Draft, the Quakers retained forward Ron Haigler and guard John Beecroft, the second and third-leading scorers on the team, respectively, from the previous season. In addition, Penn managed to recruit forward John Engles, a 1973 High School Parade All-American, to suit up for the Red and Blue.
The Quakers opened up regular season play by handily beating New Hampshire, Manhattan, and Navy, before dropping close contests to Wake Forest, California, and Saint Bonaventure. Then, after winning a close contest against La Salle, Penn was set to begin Ancient Eight play.
The Quakers began conference play with a 69-59 victory against Princeton. Following a nail-biter against Temple and an 89-50 victory against Dartmouth, where the freshman Engles scored a career-high 27 points, the Quakers faced Harvard at the Palestra. In a back and forth contest, Beecroft managed to net a last-second running one-hander to win the game for the Quakers, 55-53.
After that exciting finish, the Quakers carried their momentum forward by winning six of their next seven games, with the lone slip-up coming in a 10-point loss against a South Carolina team that would finish 22-5 on the season. This stretch was highlighted by two-point victories against Saint Joseph’s and Princeton.
Following an 80-56 beatdown of Yale, however, the Quakers would drop their lone conference game of the season in a 66-65 loss to Brown. After that, Penn would go on to win their last six games, all against Ivy League opponents.
The Quakers finished the regular season 21-6 and 13-1 in conference play, which won them their fifth consecutive Ivy League title, finishing two games ahead of second place Princeton. As conference champions, the Quakers were offered a bid to the 1974 NCAA Tournament, where they were matched up against 26-3 Providence, which was coming off a Final Four appearance the year before and featured Marvin Barnes, who would go on to become the No. 2 overall selection by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1974 NBA Draft. Though the Quakers fought hard, with Engles tying his career high of 27 points, they ultimately fell to the more talented Friars by a score of 84-69.
Though they were unable to advance further than the previous year, the season was still considered a success for Daly and the team. The Quakers were able to build off their 1974 success and translate it into a sixth consecutive Ivy League title in 1975 in a decade full of highlights for the Red and Blue.
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