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The Quakers fell short of their Final Four aspirations in 1975, losing to Kansas State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Credit: DP Archives

Looking for and finding another successful season after capturing the 1974 Ivy League title, coach Chuck Daly led his Quakers to a victorious run, finishing 23-5 overall and a 13-1 finish in the Ancient Eight.

As Penn took on the title of one of the true powerhouses of collegiate athletics, they set their sights on dominating all the way to the NCAA Tournament finals in San Diego.

"Winning the Ivy League and Big 5, that's beginning to sound redundant," forward Bob Bigelow said. "I think we have to stretch our goals further, like the Final Four."

The Red and Blue started their season off with a dominant 101-74 win over Middle Tennessee, and rattled off four more consecutive victories to open the season a perfect 5-0.

Not unfamiliar with playing for loyal supporters, the Quakers emerged with a 90-80 win in one of these games, a Big 5 clash against local rival Villanova, in front of nearly 10,000 fans.

Among Ivy League competition, Penn started with a bump, but picked up momentum as the season progressed.

The team's first Ivy game was a narrow 50-49 loss at Princeton's Jadwin Gymnasium just after the start of the new year. However, in the two games following, the Quakers got back into stride and dominated Harvard, 103-75, and Dartmouth, 108-79. Many thanks can be given to the home fans who gave the Quakers much-needed support at the Palestra.

The Red and Blue would then suffer their final nonconference loss at the hands of Big 5 rival La Salle, 67-65, with Joe Bryant hitting the game-winner. But from that point, it was all Penn.

Determined not to stay down, Penn rebounded with a victory over St. Joseph's and prepared for a tight away contest against Providence.

Having played the Friars three times in three years in the NCAA Tournament, Penn saw its only victory against them during the 1972 season. But fortune favored the Quakers in 1975, as Penn defeated the home side 66-65 in a nail-biting win.

"We played the best defensive game we have all season," Daly said. "We earned it all the way."

The subsequent rematch with Princeton would be one of the most important games to Penn in the Ivy League. Princeton was just behind the Quakers as second-best in the league, and Penn wasn't going to give away its number one spot without a fight.

"We're in a must-win situation," Daly said before the matchup. "This is perhaps the most important game of the season in terms of winning the league, which is, of course, our objective."

Win they did, as the Red and Blue took down the Tigers, 75-57, despite falling behind by as many as 16 points in the second half.

Riding the high after the blowout win against Princeton, the Quakers dominated in their last few games in conference play. With February came cold chills, and Penn froze its competition on the basketball court.

Against Brown, Penn came away with a solid win, 72-67, leaving the Bears silent on the court and in the locker room. Next up came the two New York teams, who were no match for the Quakers. Penn ousted Columbia in a crushing defeat, 113-69, and Cornell, 83-64.

Even on the road, Daly's star-studded lineup worked Penn magic in the opposing teams' arenas. The Red and Blue defeated Dartmouth and Harvard, back to back, 80-70, and 103-81, respectively.

The following week, Penn was back in New York, taking the city by storm and leaving no mercy in its path, dominating Cornell, 95-75, and Columbia, 72-69.

The Quakers capped off their 14-game winning run where they belonged, home at the Palestra. Yale and Brown came, hoping to put an end to the team's hot streak. Instead, they went home losers, defeated by the Red and Blue, 98-73, and 89-59, respectively.

While dominant in Ancient Eight play, Penn fell at the first postseason hurdle. Despite a 17-point effort from standout Ron Haigler in his final game with the team, the Red and Blue could not slow down Kansas State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, losing by a 69-62 score.

Determined to put this loss behind him, Daly could only look ahead to the next season, preparing for a comeback that would put his Quakers back on top where they belonged.

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