Redemption has never sounded sweeter than it did for coach Fran Dunphy and the 1992-93 Quakers. Determined not to be second-best again, Dunphy pulled out all the stops and led his Quakers to an undefeated season, finishing 14-0 in the Ivy League and 22-5 overall.
The first game of the season was rough for the Quakers, going down 74-68 against Virginia. The Quakers’ big four — Andy Baratta, Eric Moore, Shawn Trice, and Tim Krug — shot a collective 3-of-17 for a grand total of nine points, while Cavaliers sophomore forward Junior Burrough shot circles around them and put up 23 points.
“[Burrough is] a fine athlete, a quality scorer inside,” Dunphy said. “We needed to get whoever was guarding him a little bit of help, and I’ll take responsibility for that. I didn’t make enough changes to help our inside players defend him.”
The offense wasn’t any better. On the rare occasion that the Red and Blue were patient with the ball in the post, they looked as though they would’ve preferred the ball anywhere else but there. The Quakers only managed to yield two baskets with their post-up efforts.
“We didn’t execute our offense well enough to get inside opportunities,” Penn sophomore guard Matt Maloney said. “It was a matter of patience; we just didn’t have enough patience.”
This first loss rattled the Quakers. They were too impatient and in too much of a rush to win. They needed to calm down and let the wins come to them. And that’s precisely what happened.
The Red and the Blue became hungrier for a win, so much so that in their next five games, they feasted on their opponents and left them starving on the court for points.
The first game after the crushing defeat from the Cavaliers was against Navy, where the Quakers handed them a plate of leftover scraps from their total points. Knowing how fiercely Navy played, the Quakers were determined to match the intensity.
“I expect them to come right at us,” sophomore forward Shawn Trice said. “They’re yearning for a win against us, so we can expect them to play real hard, especially because they’re at home.”
While the Navy played hard, the Red and the Blue played harder and crushed the Midshipmen, 78-58. The Quakers dominated defensively, as they forced Navy into 25 turnovers.
“I think we took them out of their offense,” said junior forward Barry Pierce, one of five Quakers to reach double figures with his 14 points. “They’re a team that basically wants to come and fire some threes. We just stopped them from getting threes, and we made them run their offense.”
The next four games would be just like the second: with Penn torching its opponents and leaving them on the court singed. Following Navy, the Quakers mercilessly destroyed La Salle and its rookie-heavy lineup, 71-44.
In the next game, the Red and the Blue went up against Holy Cross, a team they lost to in a nail-biting contest last season.
“We want to beat them for this year,” sophomore forward Eric Moore said. “But anybody we lost against [last year] adds extra incentive to win.”
In yet another nail-biting game, the Quakers edged their competitors, beating the Crusaders, 78-76.
Penn then received an early Christmas gift with a big win over local rival Villanova, 71-59, and a sloppy win over Northwestern, 64-61. The Quakers then advanced in the Lobo Invitational to compete against host New Mexico. Although the Quakers lost, 54-51, New Mexico coach Dave Bliss didn’t doubt their skills.
“We’re not going to invite Penn anymore,’’ Bliss said after the game. “They’re too tough. I’m not so sure that’s not the toughest team we have played all season.”
Matt Maloney’s shooting kept the Quakers on pace with New Mexico, but it wasn’t enough for the win.
The Quakers came out of winter break on fire, racking up another four-game hot streak with wins over Lehigh (78-68), Dartmouth (88-63), Harvard (88-74), and American (89-84).
Heading back into nonconference play, Temple halted Penn’s winning streak, by a 72-58 scoreline. This game came with a lot of tension, not the least of which were a Big 5 title on the line. Maloney would be playing opposite his father, a coach for the Owls.
The Owls were gunning for Penn's Maloney, who wasn’t able to make as many shots. The Penn quartet didn’t do any better, as they shot for a collective total of 11 points.
The next game was just as rough, as Penn suffered another defeat against St. Joe’s, 94-72. The fans, the players, the mascot, and the coaches were tired of losing. So they stopped.
The Red and the Blue must’ve had some life-changing encounter, as their stats made a complete U-turn. The Quakers launched into a 13-game winning streak (12 of which were Ivy League victories), scorching their opponents and leaving them in the dust at away or at the Palestra.
Unfortunately, Penn's hot run came to an end at just the wrong time. Given a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Quakers headed up to Syracuse, N.Y. to face No. 3 Massachusetts.
Despite taking a 22-20 lead into halftime, the Minutemen pulled away in the final minutes to seal a 54-50 victory and eliminate the Red and Blue.
Still, there was no doubt that Dunphy had a winning team on his hands, as two of his players eventually made it to the NBA. Matt Maloney and Jerome Allen used their star talents on a professional level and made Penn proud. Dunphy was creating a team of stars, and he intended to nurture more of them for the next season, where he would come back with vengeance.