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'Nova stifles Quakers offense down the stretch

(02/25/99 10:00am)

The Penn men's basketball team saw a Big 5 victory slip away under Villanova's pressure in the second half. VILLANOVA, Pa. -- With 8:25 remaining in the second half on Tuesday night, Villanova forward Howard Brown went up for a slam dunk on a breakaway. Paul Romanczuk, however, would have none of it, as he challenged Brown and sent him sprawling to the ground. Brown hit one of the resulting free throws to give Villanova a 56-55 advantage -- only its second lead of the game. It was a lead the Wildcats would not relinquish. Although Penn led for most of the game, everything fell apart for the Quakers in the final eight minutes. After going into halftime ahead by four and outplaying the Wildcats for much of the game, Penn simply ran out of gas. The shots stopped falling and the turnovers and fouls started piling up. "For the most part, I thought we did what we needed to do defensively," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "But at the other end, we needed a little bit more patience and some better decision-making." In the first half, the Quakers' offense ran smoothly and they were able to get quality looks at the basket. In the final minutes, though, Penn could not get the same looks. Poor execution on the Quakers' part and an increased defensive effort by Villanova allowed the Wildcats to pull away in a previously close matchup. "I think it was shaky decisions," Penn guard Michael Jordan said. "I think we just made some dumb mistakes down the stretch that cost us the game." Often these dumb mistakes led to turnovers for the Quakers and points for the Wildcats. Penn's poor decision-making was partly the result of Villanova's defensive pressure. The increased Wildcat pressure at the end of the game often left the Quakers in difficult situations. "I think they played very good defense," Dunphy said. "I thought our decisions could have been better but sometimes when that athleticism is turned up a little bit, we have a tendency to make decisions that we don't typically make." Typically, however, Penn has Geoff Owens in the middle. On Tuesday night, though, the 6'11" junior was sitting at home with his jaw wired shut. This left the Quakers with little to throw at Villanova's big man, Malik Allen. Although Josh Sanger started at center, Dunphy made frequent substitutions in the second half to give Penn more offensive power. This left the Quakers with a smaller lineup and allowed the 6'10" Allen -- who finished with seven blocks -- to dominate in the low post. In addition to Allen making stops for the Wildcats when Penn got close to the hoop, the pressure was applied on all parts of the court, especially by Villanova's John Celestand and Howard Brown. Celestand was assigned the unpleasant task of guarding Jordan. Jordan was still able to create opportunities and get points but Celestand's tight defense forced Penn to make several bad passes, commit turnovers and rush shots. Brown, who had five steals for the night and found himself on breakaways multiple times, was the beneficiary of much of the pressure applied by his teammates. "I think we just started putting some more pressure on the ball [in the second half]," Allen said. "[Celestand] applied a lot of pressure to Michael Jordan, which was a big key for the game and it allowed some of the other guys out on the court to cool off a bit." As the Quakers cracked under the defensive pressure, the Wildcats went on a 15-3 run that gave them a 12-point lead with 2:20 remaining in the game. In the final two minutes, the Quakers committed several fouls in a desperate attempt to close the gap. But the damage had already been done. Villanova's tight defense and the Quakers' inability to make the right decisions had done in the Red and Blue. "You know with a team like [Penn] that [scoring] could keep going," Villanova coach Steve Lappas said. "But you hope in the end, you can wear them out." And in the end, the Wildcats did.

Penn's big run kills Big Green

(02/22/99 10:00am)

HANOVER, N.H. -- With 4:39 remaining in the first half and Penn leading Dartmouth by two, the Big Green's Shaun Gee drew his third personal foul. The All-Ivy forward spent the rest of the half on the bench, and by the time those four minutes and 39 seconds had ticked off the clock, the game was all but over. With the Big Green's leading scorer -- who was honored before the game for recently scoring his 1,000th career point -- sitting on the bench, the Quakers rolled off a scoring run of epic proportions to carry them to a 82-49 win, one of their easiest victories of the year. And it all began with Gee's foul trouble. "We didn't react well to Shaun picking up his third [foul] and that's where the problem starts," Dartmouth coach Dave Faucher said. "Our problems started there, and [Penn] smelled blood." And it wasn't just from when Geoff Owens banged his chin on the floor two minutes into the game. Dartmouth's problems may have started with Gee heading to the bench but the Big Green's troubles were far from over. Penn pounced on Dartmouth and made them look like a bunch of junior varsity high school players. After leading 22-16 with 9:15 left in the first half, Dartmouth suddenly went colder than the New Hampshire weather outside. The Quakers took control at the end of the first half with a 24-3 run to lead 40-25 at the break. The run was part of a larger 45-8 stretch that continued into the second half and showed third-place Dartmouth that it is not quite ready to join the Ivy League's elite. "My head's spinning because I had a big piece of humble pie," Faucher said after the game. For a while, however, Dartmouth looked like it would give Penn a close contest -- like it had two weeks ago in Penn's 79-67 win at the Palestra. Unfortunately for the Big Green, the game lasted longer than 10 minutes, and after the first 10 minutes, they had no chance. In addition to Gee's foul trouble, Dartmouth may have been a bit tired, considering four of its starters played 40 minutes against Princeton on Friday. This was not a problem for the Quakers, whose deep bench allowed them to roll with ease. Forward Frank Brown checked in as Gee was checking out and immediately contributed to the Penn offense. Brown buried a three-pointer right after he entered the game and showed no signs of rust after not playing against Harvard the previous night. "I was happy to see Frank step up. It was a big three he made at the end of the first half and he started the second half and had some real good looks," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "Our bench is critical to our success." Reserve guard Lamar Plummer and forwards Mike Sullivan and Josh Sanger also contributed to Penn's effort on both ends of the court. The fresh bodies off the bench kept Dartmouth in check as the Quakers' lead continued to increase. The bench players, however, were not the only players who kicked their games into gear near the end of the first half. After Michael Jordan scored eight of Penn's first 10 points, contributions started coming from everybody wearing a Red and Blue uniform. The last five minutes were highlighted by an Owens dunk, a Jed Ryan three-pointer and a Matt Langel runner that missed but counted when Dartmouth's Ryan Smerek interfered with the basket. Although Jordan got the Quakers going against the Big Green, Penn soon had all of its parts running together like a well-oiled machine -- one with which the Big Green could not keep up. During the run at the end of the first half, Penn pounded Dartmouth on both the offensive and defensive end to give the Big Green little hope for an upset. As the buzzer sounded to end the first half, a Langel three-pointer swished through the net. The Quakers ran into the locker room jumping and hollering. The first half was over, but Penn's run was just getting started. Picking up where they left off after the break, the Quakers put the game -- and Dartmouth's title hopes -- out of reach.

M. Hoops looks to rebound at Brown and Yale

(02/12/99 10:00am)

The Quakers want to avoid over looking two very weak opponents. While Tuesday's disaster will never be forgotten, the Penn men's basketball team will try not to think about Princeton this weekend. Instead, the Quakers embark on the second half of their league schedule with visits to the two worst teams in the Ivy League, Brown and Yale. With the Quakers (14-4, 6-1 Ivy League) one game behind the Tigers in the standings, they will probably need to win every game against the six other Ivy teams if they have hopes of winning the league title. That quest begins in Providence, R.I., against the Bears (4-16, 2-6) at 7:30 p.m. tonight. "We can't really take anything back from [Tuesday] night," Penn guard Michael Jordan said. "They came out and outplayed us. They beat us. The better team won. "We just have to move on and focus on Brown and Yale this weekend, and then we'll take it game-by-game after that." While the Quakers did study the game film from the Princeton loss yesterday at practice, coach Fran Dunphy worked with the players on things they can expect from the Bears and the Elis. If results from earlier this season are any indication, Penn should have little difficulty with Brown tonight. The last time these two teams faced off, January 9 at the Palestra, Penn rolled to an easy 86-55 victory. The game was such a blowout that Brendan Cody was the only Quaker not to score. Despite the Quakers' superiority to Brown in both talent and experience, Penn will not be taking this game lightly. As Princeton proved Tuesday, almost anything can happen in Ivy League basketball. And an upset victory by the Bears would be enough to start writing the obituary for Penn's 1999 NCAA Tournament hopes. "We're going to remain focused," Penn center Geoff Owens said. "We know we must win." A win against Brown would only accomplish half of the Quakers' goal this weekend because Saturday night they travel to New Haven, Conn., to face Yale (3-17, 1-7). On paper, a Penn-Yale game looks to be the equivalent of a Broncos-Eagles football game. But the game will not be played on paper and a contest against Yale has been about as pleasant as a root canal for Penn in their past three meetings. Last season, the Quakers dropped a 71-70 overtime game in New Haven before having to rally from a 20-point deficit to win when the Elis came to the Palestra. The teams' most recent meeting was also not a game Penn would like to remember. Although the Red and Blue came away with a 68-62 victory, the Quakers' performance was a showcase of sloppy play and careless mistakes. Owens had one of his worst games of the season, finishing with two points and four fouls after 20 minutes on the court. He also made Yale sophomore center Neil Yanke, who scored 19 points, look like an NBA prospect. A repeat performance should not be expected, however. Owens has increased his offensive output in recent games and defensively he shut down Princeton center Chris Young for most of the night Tuesday. This has all come with Owens drawing more fouls and committing less of his own. "The key is staying out of foul trouble. I got into a little foul trouble, and I couldn't play my same aggressive defense against Yanke," Owens said. The inside game of Owens and tri-captain Paul Romanczuk should pose problems for both the Bears and the Elis this weekend. The last time these two teams met, Yanke and Yale forward David Tompkins both got into foul trouble. Brown center Kamal Rountree had the same problem during the Bears visit to Philadelphia. Rountree averages 17.7 points per game. The Bears do not, however, have much of an offensive game beyond their center. Tompkins leads the Elis with a 16.2 scoring average and he and Yanke are the only Yale players who pull down a significant number of rebounds. Although Yale beat Penn 35-28 on the boards in their first meeting, the Quakers' rebounding was limited by Owens' foul trouble. Yale and Brown represent not only the bottom of the Ivy League, but also some of the poorest basketball in Division I. In the most recent RPI, Yale was ranked last out of 310 Division I teams, while Brown came in at No. 308. Based on those numbers, it seems like No. 66 Penn should roll over both teams. But after Tuesday's Nightmare on 33rd Street, it is difficult to know how the Quakers will respond against these typically weak opponents. However, all events point to Penn steamrolling through the weaker competition. "It will be a telling weekend for us and I hope they'll do a good job," Dunphy said. "I'm expecting them to get back on the right track."

Penn doesn't hide its disappointment

(02/11/99 10:00am)

The Penn men's basketball tries to make sense of Tuesday night's shocking 50-49 loss to Ivy League leader Princeton. A day may have passed, but the Penn men's basketball team is still hurting. Watching a 27-point lead slip away against your worst enemy would put anyone in a bad mood. For the Quakers, it couldn't get any worse than it did on Tuesday night. "I'm not very emotional when it comes to showing my feelings or anything, but during the game when the buzzer sounded, I wanted to cry," junior tri-captain Michael Jordan said. "But I refused to cry in front of all those people." Senior forward Paul Romanczuk experienced the same feelings as his fellow captain. "I'm still disappointed," he said. "You can't help but to be disappointed at this point in time." · They may be disappointed but the Quakers are now even more focused on their remaining games. Beginning this weekend with games at Brown and Yale and leading up to the highly anticipated Princeton rematch on March 2, each of the seven Ivy contests left on the schedule becomes a must-win. With the Tigers now holding a one-game advantage in the standings, Penn has no room for error. "I believe this team has a lot of fight and a lot of character," Romanczuk said. "We've got to prove ourselves in those eight [remaining] games." · But as the Quakers make their trek through those eight games, which include a Big 5 matchup with Villanova, the bitter memories of Princeton's miracle comeback will still linger. As any of the 8,722 fans at the Palestra could attest to, Tuesday's game was like no other. Not only did the game feature the largest comeback in Ivy League history, but it was also the fourth-largest in NCAA history. "You never think this could happen to you," Jordan said. "We just choked. We blew it in the second half." · Quakers Trivia: Before this week, when was the last time Penn scored fewer than 50 points in one game? (Answer below). · Recently, Romanczuk looked more like a boxer than a basketball player. Romanczuk had a gash over his left eye from a collision with Geoff Owens in the Harvard game. The six stitches the cut earned him will be removed before the Yale game on Saturday. His shiner, however, may take a little more time to go away. · With Penn in desperate need of any type of scoring in the second half and with Jed Ryan not connecting on anything, many people were asking themselves the same question Tuesday night. Where was Frank Brown? Brown, who was the first man off the bench earlier this season, spent only five minutes on the floor. In his only field goal attempt, he buried a three-pointer to increase Penn's first-half lead to 23 points. Recently, Brown -- who scored 17 points in 26 minutes of action against Kansas in the season opener -- has seen his time diminish significantly. He never even took off his warm-up shirt against Dartmouth last Friday. Penn coach Fran Dunphy said that Brown's lack of minutes does not stem from any bad blood between the two. Brown's playing time is instead determined by game-by-game coaching decisions. Against Princeton, Dunphy felt that the defense and ball-handling skill of Mike Sullivan would be more beneficial to the Quakers than Brown's scoring. "[Sullivan] is a little bit better of a defender than Frank and a little bit better of a ball handler than Frank, but I think as we second-guessed ourselves, there were some times that I probably could have had Frank in the game," Dunphy said. "It's just one of those things when you go with your gut reaction." Dunphy added that Brown has recently recovered from a stomach virus that sidelined him earlier this month and that Sullivan has been playing very well in practice. He went on to say that Brown, who earned a technical foul on January 30 for a push during the Columbia game, is "an outstanding person," and that he is not in the coach's doghouse. "When I got out there in the beginning, I hit a three so that boosted my confidence. I like playing in front of a large crowd in a big game against Princeton," Brown said. "I was just ready to go. I wanted to play. I'm just trying to help the team win. Whatever coach decides, I'm with him." · Trivia Answer: December 21, 1996 against the Temple Owls. Penn lost 69-45. · Two members of the Quakers will start showcasing their non-basketball talents next week, as Jordan and Ryan serve as the hosts of a sports show on UTV13. The show, which will focus on sports besides men's basketball and football, will air Monday nights at 8:30 p.m. "We haven't come up with a name yet. It might be Quaker Talk or Jed Ryan and a Little Black Guy or something like that," Jordan said. "It's just to promote the other sports that don't get as much limelight as football and basketball."

M. Hoops samples balanced scoring

(02/08/99 10:00am)

A balanced diet is a key component of a healthy life, and the Penn men's basketball team seems to be well aware of this when it takes the court. In both games this weekend, the Quakers received a healthy serving of double-digit scoring from each of their five starters. Paul Romanczuk led the Quakers with 18 points against Dartmouth on Friday night and Geoff Owens scored a team-high 16 the next night against Harvard. Yet neither big man carried his team, showing on both occasions that Penn's full arsenal of scorers will be difficult for Ivy League teams to contend with. "What they have is balance, inside and outside. They make a couple threes and you think you've got the answer because now you stay up on players and stop them," Dartmouth coach Dave Faucher said. "As soon as they see the space, they go right at you inside." Never was this more evident than in the first half against the Big Green. With 14:29 left in the half, Penn was on top by the score of 15-4, due mainly to the shooting of Jed Ryan. Ryan was putting on a shooting clinic from three-point land, burying his first three attempts. "It was huge for us in the first half, because without that, it wasn't like we had a smooth, flowing offense," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said about Ryan's shooting. "Jed was big in the first half, no question about it." Despite getting the Quakers off to a fast start, however, Ryan was not the only option in the first half. Post players Romanczuk and Owens and shooting guard Matt Langel all contributed to the first half scoring. Ironically, the only starter not to score in the first 20 minutes was the one whose mere presence and leadership on the court is supposed to help get Penn going offensively. With point guard Michael Jordan on the bench for part of the first half, the Quakers hit a lull and allowed the Big Green to creep back into the game. "Mike helps you in so many different ways," Dunphy said. "When he's not in the game, we're not running our offense as well as we'd like." In the second half of the Dartmouth game, though, Penn proved that it has many options when its All-Ivy point guard is having an off-night. Jordan scored 10 points in the second half, but by this time, the Quakers were clearly in control of the game. One of the players who put them in this position was Romanczuk, whose inside moves resulted in both points for Penn and fouls for Dartmouth's post players. "[Paul is] a tough matchup for us. He's physical and he also puts it on the deck, and we're really concerned with foul trouble with [Shaun] Gee," Faucher said. "[Paul has] been around the block and he knows the game. They have such balance, but he is very important to what they do." Romanczuk is not the only Penn post player who is important to what the Quakers do and this point was driven home by Owens on Saturday night against the Crimson. Owens' defensive presence has been integral to Penn's success this season, but his moves on the other end of the court have also added a whole new dimension to Penn's offensive game. In the first half of the Harvard game, Owens scored eight points despite getting just one field goal attempt. The Crimson, playing without center Paul Fisher, were clearly overmatched in the post by the 6'11" Owens. This resulted in eight free throw attempts for Owens, who hit six, while putting Harvard's big men in early foul trouble. "The key for me is that if I go up strong, I can draw fouls," Owens said. "When I tend to go up a little weak and try to avoid contact, I make tough shots instead of just really trying to draw contact and go up strong." Against Harvard, Penn -- for the second night in a row -- showed that it has many options. Langel was the leading scorer at the break with 11 points, riding the strength of his perfect 3-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc. And like the night before, the Quakers had to deal with the disappearance of Jordan from the scoring column in the first half. For the second night in a row, this was not a problem. "I think [my teammates] responded well," Jordan said. "They were making shots. I only got two attempts [in the first half], but everybody else sure did take their share and they made them." Jordan made some shots of his own in the second half, including two important three-pointers, to finish with 10 points. But despite reaching double digits, Jordan was only Penn's fifth-leading scorer for the second straight night. "You have five guys for Pennsylvania in double figures," Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. "Penn can get scoring on a number of fronts." This weekend, it certainly did.

M. Hoops teaches two New York foes a lesson

(02/01/99 10:00am)

The Penn men's basketball team improved to 4-0 in Ivy play with a weekend road sweep of Cornell and Columbia. Nine games in January. Nine wins. Heading into the second month of 1999, the Penn men's basketball team is still undefeated this calendar year. This past weekend, the Quakers (12-3, 4-0 Ivy League) traveled through New York State and came home with two more league victories. On Friday night, Penn disposed of Cornell (6-12, 1-5), 86-62, before heading southeast to beat Columbia (7-11, 2-4), 67-51, the following evening. Cornell had beaten Penn in Ithaca each of the past two seasons but the Quakers made sure the Big Red did not extend that streak to three. "It was definitely in our minds. Mike [Jordan] and I were 0-2 there, and Paul [Romanczuk] and Jed [Ryan] had lost two straight," guard Matt Langel said. "Those guys certainly thought they could beat us, and we wanted to prove otherwise." Jordan, who scored the Quakers' first five points, led the attack from the start -- scoring 10 first-half points on his way to a team-high 17 points. Friday night also marked the resurgence of senior forward Jed Ryan, who had been struggling from the outside in recent games. Ryan buried his first two three-point attempts and shot 5-of-8 from the field on the night, ending the game with 13 points. "[Jed] had a great weekend shooting the ball. He got us off to a great start against Cornell," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "He understands that's part of his job, his role on this team -- to not only make shots, but more importantly, to get them and be very much a threat for our offensive game-plan." The Quakers led 41-32 at the half but they were just getting started. They scored the first 10 points of the second half and cruised the rest of the way. "We went on a big run, and I think we got some good rest towards the end of that [Cornell] game, and it paid off in the Columbia game," Langel said. The rest the Quakers received certainly did seem to pay off in Saturday night's game against the Lions. Five Penn players scored in double figures on Saturday, led by Ryan's 14. But surprisingly, the only Penn starter who did not reach double digits in scoring was Jordan, as he shot just 1-of-9 from the field against Columbia. Although Jordan did score eight points on the strength of 6-of-6 shooting from the free throw line, on this night the Quakers did not need a huge contribution from the junior tri-captain, as the other four starters and reserve guard Lamar Plummer were very effective against the Lions. "We had balanced scoring, and that's great," Jordan said. "That will help us out in the long run, so teams can't think that if they take me out of the game, they're going to win. We showed that against Columbia." One of the biggest contributions this weekend came from center Geoff Owens. Owens shot 5-of-6 from the field against the Lions, scoring 12 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. Owens' strong showing was highlighted by a few key plays. The first one came with time running out in the first half and Columbia forward Justin Namolik driving the lane. Owens rejected the shot, swatting the ball into the waiting hands of Romanczuk. Romanczuk then hit a streaking Langel, who made a breakaway layup as the buzzer sounded. Penn went into the locker room with both the scoreboard and the control of the game in its favor. "It was a terrific play," Dunphy said. "[Owens] was a little out of position, in all honesty, just before he made the block, but he got himself back into position and made a terrific block. I think it gave us a lot of momentum going into the second half." In the second half, Owens continued his exceptional play. "I think the most pleasing thing for us over the weekend was in the second half of the Columbia game," Dunphy said. "Geoff Owens really took the game over for a stretch, got a lot of rebounds and a couple of very emotional baskets." Although Owens and the Quakers played well for most of the second half, forward Frank Brown added one negative note to the game when he drew a technical foul. After missing a jumpshot, Brown went in for the offensive rebound and was elbowed in the head. Brown reacted by pushing the opposing player before spending most of the rest of the game on the bench. "Frank's not a guy that that happens to often," Dunphy said. "We took him out of the game, which we typically do to anyone who gets in that situation." Despite Brown's technical, Penn dominated the Lions on Saturday night, as they did against Cornell the night before, to close out an impressive Ivy road weekend. "We were happy to keep ourselves on a roll," Owens said. "We won both games pretty handily, so that was something we were happy to do."

W. Swimming inaugurates a new diver but loses to Navy

(01/25/99 10:00am)

The Penn women's swimming team lost by 74 points but saw many individual improvements. After Saturday's meet against Navy, Penn women's swimming coach Kathy Lawlor-Gilbert was standing around with a recruit and her parents. As they were talking, Navy coach Dick Purdy approached the recruit to tell her that she is making the right choice by coming to Penn and that the women's swimming program is as strong as it's been in four years. Considering that Navy (7-3) had just beaten the Quakers 181.5-107.5, this praise for Penn may seem out of place. But to the Quakers (2-5), their performance on Saturday cannot be measured by the 74-point margin of defeat. "We got more psyched up for this meet than we have been in a while, and that really helped us a lot," Penn freshman April Fletcher said. "It was a great meet." Lawlor-Gilbert agreed with the assertion that Saturday was a great meet, especially for Fletcher and sophomore Cathy Holland, who she named the meet's two outstanding performers. Fletcher finished first in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:13.70 and took second in the 200-yard free in 1:59.89. "I was really happy with both of my swims," Fletcher said. "It was nice to get a change, because they are events I don't usually swim." Holland won the 1,000-yard free in 10:26.04. "Personally, I thought my performance was right where it should be at this point in the season," said Holland, who expects the team to log less mileage in practice this week to prepare for next weekend's meet against Yale and Dartmouth. Despite the performances of Fletcher, Holland and the rest of the swimmers, the most important event on Saturday did not come from the swimming side of the competition. "The biggest news of the meet is that our freshman diver made her debut and placed second in both events," Lawlor-Gilbert said. In her first collegiate competition, Kathie Dykes scored eight points for the Red and Blue -- four in both the one-meter and three-meter dives. This was a luxury the Quakers did not have in meets earlier this season. Two weeks ago, Penn beat Drexel despite not having any divers, forfeiting every diving point to the Dragons. Although it worked for that particular meet, an absence of divers will not do much to help a team in the Ivy League season. "You can't hand over 26 points and expect to compete," Lawlor-Gilbert said. While Dykes' diving made competing with the Midshipmen easier, the Navy swimmers were just too strong for Penn. Navy had three swimmers who won two events each and several others who picked up second and third places in various events.

ANALYSIS: M. Hoops makes run at right time

(01/20/99 10:00am)

The Penn men's basketball team utilized a well-timed run to put away S. Joe's. It had the right atmosphere and the right participants, but something about Monday night's game between Penn and St. Joe's was atypical of recent Big 5 matchups. Unlike last year's heart-stopper against the Hawks or November's court-storming thriller with Temple, Monday's game did not go down to the wire -- although with the halftime score tied at 28, it certainly had the potential. But Monday's game, like many of Penn's recently, was a game of runs, and the Quakers had the best run of the night. It was a run, however, unlike most of Penn's runs this season. The placement of these runs has been a problem in other games, as Penn's opponents often steal momentum that the Quakers establish with early runs. Against the Hawks, timing posed no such dilemma. When the Hawks called a timeout with 10:31 left in the second half, Penn had a 49-36 lead, outscoring St. Joe's 21-8 in the period's first 9 1/2 minutes. St. Joe's would not recover. Dating back to the first game of the season against Kansas, halftime has been a momentum killer for the Red and Blue. Last week against Yale, for example, it took Penn almost five minutes after intermission to score its first points. The situation was different on Monday, and a huge part of that difference was guard Michael Jordan. "[Jordan] is an outstanding basketball player," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "He is tenacious, a competitor, he wants to win very badly. Sometimes, he drives his teammates crazy." With 12:04 left in the game, though, it was St. Joe's who Jordan was driving crazy. Jordan stole the ball from Hawks forward Andre Howard, his fourth of a career-high-tying five steals on the night. He then took off down court, stopped at the three-point line and calmly buried his shot -- and the hope of most St. Joe's fans. The Quakers led 42-34. "[Jordan] has a fearlessness about him," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "He's an average shooter, or a slightly less than average shooter, and yet he'll take that three." While that three was the highlight of Penn's second half performance, Jordan was not the only one making contributions to the Quakers' effort. With 30 seconds gone in the period, forward Paul Romanczuk found center Geoff Owens down low for an easy layup. Although both big men had subpar games -- due in large part to the Hawks' interior defense -- this play got Penn rolling in the second half. And that roll continued on the defensive end of the floor. After Rob Haskins hit a jumper to open the scoring for the Hawks with 17 seconds gone in the half, it would be more than three minutes before St. Joe's would score again -- and almost another three until they found the hoop after that. While the Hawks were having difficulty getting their shots to fall, the Quakers were not having that problem. And when they were not hitting shots, they were often drawing fouls. The most critical of these plays was made by reserve forward Josh Sanger. After a missed Jordan shot, Sanger grabbed the board, made a strong move to the basket, drew a foul and then hit the free throw to complete the three-point play. "Josh Sanger was tremendous," Dunphy said. "I thought he did a great job." Likewise, the Quakers as a whole did a great job in the first 10minutes of the second half and did not display any lethargy after the break. "I think in a city series game like this, where the Palestra is packed, that you're never going to go up 11 and up 16," guard Matt Langel said. "And then the game is going to be over." Of course, the game was not over with 10 minutes remaining. But in this game -- where Penn's run came after the break, rather than at a less crucial point -- a 21-8 run was enough to put the game away.

GAME ANALYSIS: Penn beaten on boards by smaller foes

(01/18/99 10:00am)

Despite starting a 6'6" center, Colgate outrebounded the Quakers 39-30, including a 16-5 edge in offensive boards. Penn center Geoff Owens finished Saturday's game against Colgate with four blocks -- all of which came in the first half -- and provided a huge presence on defense for the Quakers. But when Penn took control of the ball, Owens often left his tenacious play at the other end of the court. Of his six total rebounds, none came when the Red and Blue had the ball. And he wasn't alone. Power forward Paul Romanczuk grabbed only one rebound off the offensive glass, while small forward Jed Ryan was unable to come up with any. In fact, Penn accumulated only five offensive rebounds during the game, its lowest total of the year. "When the ball goes up on the glass, we've got to go and take care of it," Penn assistant coach Steve Donahue said. "And for the most part this year, we have. You can see we're outrebounding teams." Although the Quakers have not been dominating on the boards, they have been pulling down more than the opposition. Coming into the game, Penn had outrebounded every opponent this season except Kansas, Penn State and Hofstra -- the three teams that beat the Quakers. That changed this past weekend when Colgate had 39 rebounds, compared to Penn's mere 30. More importantly, the Red Raiders had 16 offensive boards, more than triple Penn's total. "The [Colgate] kids on the inside, I think, worked their butts off. I counted 16 offensive rebounds; that's what they do. They outworked us at times," Donahue said. "Offensively, I thought we got a little stagnant and they beat us to the boards." The inability of the Quakers to work the boards contributed immensely to their inability to put the Red Raiders away. At the half, with Penn holding a 33-22 lead, the Quakers had an 18-17 advantage on the boards, although Colgate had seven offensive rebounds -- four more than Penn. The second half was a different story, however, as Colgate outrebounded Penn 21-12. "We've got to learn how to, in the second half, just keep the pressure on teams and pump [our lead] out to 25, 30," Romanczuk said. "They're a very physical team. They went and got the ball off the offensive glass. "When you play that style of basketball, you're going to be in the game and [Colgate] was." The Red Raiders played like they were in the game, but in the end, Penn's talent and athleticism allowed the Quakers to come out with an 18-point victory. But the fact that the Quakers were outhustled and outrebounded by a less athletic team whose tallest starter is 6'6" is somewhat disturbing -- especially for players like the 6'11" Owens who has been inconsistent for much of the season. "Geoff was a little tentative today," Donahue said. "[Colgate] is a tough team for him. They have some seniors that are strong, low to the ground, have some leverage on him. And he's got to get better at that. That being said, I thought he was a defensive presence the whole game." That presence evaporated on offense, though, as he was often outworked by Colgate players like Pat Campolieta and Jordan Harris -- men six inches shorter than Penn's big man. Against teams like Colgate, Owens and the Quakers can have games like Saturday's and still pull out a win. But they won't be playing Colgate again for the rest of the season. And if the offensive boards do not start piling up, neither will the wins.

Super sub Solomito is electrifyin'

(01/12/99 10:00am)

Solomito put up seven points and three assists in the last three minutes against Brown. With 3:40 remaining in the Penn men's basketball team's 86-55 romp over Brown on Saturday night, the chants began. "SOL-O-MI-TO, SOL-O-MI-TO!!!" The fans wanted a glimpse of the future, and the future delivered. In fact, he did more than deliver -- he put on a show. Welcome to the Dan Solomito show. It was obvious to everyone in the Palestra that the game was over. Penn led 70-50 and Solomito and guard Brendan Cody remained the only unused players on the Penn bench. With 2:59 left and Mike Sullivan at the foul line, Penn coach Fran Dunphy sent Cody and Solomito to the scorer's table. The crowd erupted. "It's great to see those guys get some time," Penn forward Paul Romanczuk said. "They work just as hard -- maybe even harder than we do -- in practice." Sullivan hit both free throw attempts and then took a seat on the bench, as Solomito checked in for just the third time this season. His first appearance in the Palestra was not very memorable. Along with Cody and Jon Tross, Solomito saw action at the end of the Lehigh game on December 3. Against the Engineers, however, the reserves looked nervous and tentative, committing turnovers and missing shots. "It was obviously my first minutes in a college basketball game," Solomito said. "It was something that I tried not to show, but no matter how hard I tried, I was definitely nervous." The subs did not give an encore of the Lehigh performance this weekend. Instead, they looked sharp and confident, especially Solomito. Seven points and three assists would be a respectable game for many players. But amassing those stats in a mere three minutes is quite an impressive feat. Solomito did put up those numbers against bench players for one of the worst teams in Division I and the result of the game had already been well-decided. Despite the surrounding circumstances, it's is hard to find fault with Solomito's breakout performance. The former high school Jewish All-American compiled a virtual highlight reel from the time he stepped onto the court until a few seconds after the final buzzer sounded. The first hit came with 2:16 remaining. Solomito received a pass from Tross and buried a three-pointer from the right side. The trey represented the first points of his collegiate career. "It was the first time I really got a chance to prove myself, so it was a good feeling," Solomito said. He did a few more things to prove himself in the final two minutes. He showed that he can pass the ball as well, dishing the ball to a few other Quakers. He hit Lamar Plummer for a layup for his first assist, but it was his second which opened people's eyes. Driving the lane, Solomito flipped the ball behind his head to an open Josh Sanger, who scored on an easy layup. Plays like that brought the crowd to its feet. In fact, after the chants and the cheers, it seemed that Solomito -- not unlike George Mboya, the man who wore his No. 13 jersey last year -- had become a favorite of the Palestra fans. "It's a definitely a compliment," Solomito said. "It's nice to hear, but I'm just trying to go out there and play my game." Solomito recorded his third assist of the evening when he threw a baseball pass to a wide open Tross on a breakaway. Tross slammed the ball home for the first points of his own college career. The Tross dunk put Penn up 83-55, but the Quakers were not done, especially Solomito. He took a pass from Plummer and buried a three from the top of the key with 9.1 seconds left, pushing the Penn lead to 31 points. That was his last official score of the night, but not his last highlight. Brown guard Joe Bucci brought the ball upcourt with time running out when Solomito stole the ball. He took off and raced towards the basket. The buzzer sounded, but Solomito did not stop. He dunked the ball anyway, adding one last exclamation point as the final act to his short performance. What Solomito did this weekend, however, did not win the game for Penn. What it did do was give the Quakers a coming attraction for the next few years. It also made more of a case for the lone member of the men's basketball class of 2002 to see more playing time this season. "What you see tonight is a reflection of the kind of talent that Danny has," Dunphy said after the game. "He's certainly a guy that we have very much in our future. When the opportunity comes, if he does get those crunch-time minutes and he's responding that way, you can rest assured that we'll be seeing a lot of him."

Ramanczuk addresses free-throw shooting woes head-on

(01/11/99 10:00am)

Perhaps Paul Romanczuk should have gotten hit in the head a little earlier this season. Romanczuk, who scored 14.0 points per game last year, struggled offensively the first few games of theseason, averaging only 7.4 points before this weekend. But the Penn men's basketball team's starting power forward has been a major asset to the Quakers the last few games -- scoring on sharp cuts to the basket, drawing fouls and finding teammates with crisp passes. Coincidentally, most of Romanczuk's offensive firepower has come after taking a nasty spill in last Tuesday's game against Lafayette. With time running out in the first half against the Leopards, Romanczuk went up for a rebound and came down on his head. Shaken by the fall -- although not seriously injured -- Romanczuk re-entered the game with 15:33 remaining and went on to score seven second-half points to help Penn hold off a Lafayette comeback. Since then he is back to playing like the second team All-Ivy Leaguer he was last season. "Our trainer talks about how ever since I got hit in the head, I'm 12-for-13 [from the foul line], so maybe that's it," Romanczuk said. "I don't know if it's a coincidence or not." Regardless of the cause of his recent performance, it cannot be denied that Romanczuk's play in the low post was integral to the Quakers' success this weekend. Although Penn, as a team, played poorly against Yale on Friday night, Romanczuk scored 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds. His defense was also instrumental in stopping Yale's frontcourt players. Against Brown on Saturday, he was 4-for-6 from the field and 6-for-6 from the line, finishing with 14 points. But one of his biggest contributions this weekend was his ability to draw fouls on the opposing big men. Last season, Romanczuk set a Penn record with 233 free throw attempts, or eight per game. Entering the Lafayette game, he had hit 8-of-21 free throws in six games, an average of just 3.5 attempts per game. This weekend he was back to his old form, taking the ball to the hole and drawing fouls. "When the ball goes inside to me, I'd like to try to get [Brown center] Kamal Rountree out of the game -- I mean, he's their best player," Romanczuk said. "The night before, I'd like to get [Yale forward] David Tompkins out of the game, to foul him out of the game." Romanczuk was successful at getting both players to take a seat on the bench. Although Tompkins fouled out with just five seconds on the clock and Rountree finished with four fouls, both spent time on the bench in foul trouble. When he was not drawing fouls, however, Romanczuk was often looking to find other Quakers. With four minutes remaining in the first half against Brown, he hit Michael Jordan with a bullet pass from the top of the key. Jordan then scored on an easy layup under the basket. Also in the Brown game, Romanczuk found Geoff Owens several times for easy scores, and the two big men showed they can work together effectively on offense. This was not apparent in the Yale game. Against the Elis, Owens often got the ball in the low post and turned it over or missed an easy layup rather than taking the ball strongly to the basket. "I want to see him be aggressive," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said about Owens after Friday's game. "I want to see him be the best player he can be." Owens was a better player on Saturday, due in part to his ability to work with Romanczuk down low. "[Brown] doubled a little bit and every now and then, me and Geoff were able to find each other open underneath the basket," Romanczuk said. "I love working with this guy inside." While Romanczuk had three assists against the Bears, Owens finished with four, and both players seemed to be comfortable working with each other. Whether this comfort between the Penn post players will be a consistent aspect of the Quakers' performance remains to be seen. If it doesn't, however, maybe someone could hit them on the heads.

Look out Abnerf's, it's Lehigh

(12/03/98 10:00am)

Men's basketball hosts its third straight home game, the final one of the semester. Anyone in the mood for cheesesteaks? If history can repeat itself, tonight might be the night for Penn hoops fans to get Philly's most famous sandwich free of charge. The Penn men's basketball team welcomes Lehigh to the Palestra tonight at 7 p.m. The last time the Engineers came to town -- on December 7, 1996 -- the Quakers downed them 100-58, treating every ticket-stub holding fan to a cheesesteak at Abner's. But that does not mean those going to the Palestra tonight should start licking their chops. "Realistically, I don't think we'll be able to put up 100 points. [Lehigh] was a young team team [in 1996], and they're a lot older now," Penn junior guard Michael Jordan said. "Last time we got that, that was amazing." When the Engineers faced Penn in 1996, they were 0-5 and on their way to a 1-26 season. Lehigh's current team, however, is 3-2 and should pose more of a threat to the Quakers (1-1). After facing two top 10 teams in Kansas and Temple already this season, the Quakers know that tonight's matchup could still prove to be a challenge. "There's always a possibility to have a letdown, but I think that's what we concentrated on the last five days in practice -- not letting that letdown occur," Penn forward Jed Ryan said. "You don't have to get up for Kansas or for Temple, but we have to get ourselves ready [for Lehigh] and not rely on the crowd noise and the atmosphere around the game." Much of the focus on defense for the Quakers tonight will be on Lehigh guard Brett Eppehimer. The 5'11" senior is averaging 25.2 points per game this season and was the fourth leading scorer in the nation last year with a 24.7 average. Although Eppehimer dropped at least 30 points in Lehigh's other games against Ivy League teams this season -- Yale and Harvard -- he may not have the same success against a third Ivy opponent. "I think we'll match Michael [Jordan] to Eppehimer right away, which will be a good matchup for us. He's not going to let Eppehimer go for 35," Ryan said. "He's one of the better defenders I've played with in my career, so hopefully he'll be fine there. The rest of us just have to make sure that no one else [has a career night] on us. We don't want to key so much on one guy and then have the other guys kill us." For the other Lehigh players to have career days, however, they will need to see the ball more often. Through five games, Eppehimer has taken 94 shots. The next highest total on the team belongs to guard Jared Hess, who has 43 field goal attempts. Eppehimer has had to carry the team more in recent games since 6'6" forward Fido Willyboro is out with torn cartilage in his knee. "[Willyboro] means a lot to us in our pressure defense; he's good on the board; he guards very well," Lehigh coach Sal Mentesana said. "The guys who have filled in have filled in admirably. I'm very pleased with they way they're playing, but they're certainly going to have to turn it up a notch against a team like Pennsylvania." Other players who have the ability to hurt the Quakers include Hess and forward Pete Delea. Hess is shooting .471 from three-point range and has hit 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Delea is shooting .710 from the field through five games. Despite this, Lehigh should have a difficult time against the Quakers. Although Penn only escaped with a two-point victory last season in Bethlehem, Pa., the Quakers were without the service of Jordan who missed the game with an ankle injury. Jordan will be in top form tonight, as will center Geoff Owens who missed all of last season with a medical condition -- making life more difficult for the Engineers. The Quakers will be the favorites tonight, but the fans at the Palestra should not expect Penn to deliver cheesesteaks along with a win. "The cheesesteak thing is a great novelty," Ryan said. "Our focus is on playing well, do what we need to do to win the game, and hopefully everybody can go to Abner's and buy cheesesteaks."

GAME ANALYSIS: Owls sunk by threes

(11/25/98 10:00am)

The Penn men's basketball team's success from three-point land was a major factor in its win over Temple. The three-point margin of victory for the Penn men's basketball team in its 73-70 overtime win over Temple is quite appropriate, because three-pointers made the difference in the game. One of the main reasons for the upset was that the long-range bombs unleashed by the Quakers eventually spelled doom for coach John Chaney's team. Overall, the Quakers shot 11-for-24 from three-point territory, while Temple only hit 8-of-32, including a 1-for-10 day from downtown by Owls guard Rasheed Brokenborough. The Quakers dropped two shots from beyond the arc early in the overtime period, dealing a blow to Temple's hope of escaping college basketball's most historic arena with a victory. A three-pointer by Michael Jordan for the first score in overtime hit nothing but net to put Penn up 61-58. While Jordan's performance lifted Penn to victory in overtime, other Quakers were not to be outdone in the long distance shootout. Frank Brown -- who had the hottest shooting hand in town against Kansas a week ago -- followed Jordan's trey with one of his own to put the Red and Blue up by six. "[Temple] started out with a turnover, and we had a turnover, then Michael hit a three, and then Frank hit a three," Penn forward Jed Ryan said of the beginning of overtime. "This was big. It was a big stepping stone for us." It was not just in overtime, however, when the Quakers turned to long-range firing to get the job done. The muscular giants that call themselves the Temple frontcourt are not the easiest opponents to score upon down low. Although Geoff Owens and Paul Romanczuk did an admirable job of taking the ball to the hoop during their rare opportunities, Penn needed to hit its outside shots to have a chance to win this game. Matt Langel was well aware of this when he drilled a jumper from a few steps east of 33rd Street to open the scoring 30 seconds into the game. After a weak first half against the Jayhawks last Tuesday, Langel has been hitting almost every shot he takes from downtown. He was 2-for-3 in the second half against Kansas, and picked up right where he left off when the Owls came to the Palestra, shooting 3-for-4 from the promised land. "[Langel] started shooting the ball from 25 feet out," Chaney said. "That's pretty far out." Langel's shooting had him looking like his old self -- the one that finished sixth in the nation last year with a .500 three point shooting percentage. But he was not the only Quaker whose shots were falling from spots around the perimeter. Ryan dropped three of his own, along with a crucial long distance two-pointer in overtime, on his way to 13 points. Brown's hand may have cooled off a bit since the Kansas game, but it was still a few degrees above average, as his trey in overtime helped to silence the Owls. And then there was Jordan. Playing all 45 minutes, the junior point guard connected on four three-pointers for 12 of his team-high 22 points. The Quakers' habit of straying from the basket proved to be a problem for the Owls. Temple -- famous for Chaney's match-up zone defense -- is used to defending against teams that work the ball inside more often. When three-pointers started raining on their heads, however, the Owls were forced to switch their game plan. "A lot of times, they were overplaying and leaving the farthest guy from the ball open," Jordan said. Temple abandoned the match-up and began to defend the Quakers man-to-man in the second half. But it was not enough. The Red and Blue continued to hit from the outside on their way to the win.


(11/24/98 10:00am)

The men's basketball team rallied to knock out No. 6 Temple in an overtime thriller. This could be the start of something special. It was only the second game of the year, but by beating Temple, 73-70, in overtime last night, the Penn men's basketball team has Quaker fans -- especially the 8,722 in attendance last night, hundreds of whom stormed the court following the game -- anxiously awaiting March Madness. Last night, the national college basketball scene welcomed the Quakers to its ranks. Penn knew it could compete with anyone in the nation, and they proved that by upsetting Big Five rival Temple, the No. 6 team in the nation. The win over the Owls was Penn's first since February 1982 -- before John Chaney became Temple's coach. When Penn point guard Michael Jordan nailed two free throws with 5.8 seconds left in overtime, the Red and Blue showed that the Owls might not be the best college basketball team in Philadelphia. Jordan's foul shots iced the victory -- Penn's first over the Owls since 1982. "It's a real big win for our players," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "I'd like to give you a cliche or two, but I can't do that. I'm really happy for our players." Jordan finished with 22 points, playing all 40 minutes of regulation time and the entire overtime period. While the Quakers' junior point guard hit numerous big shots throughout the game, the biggest came in the extra period. With the teams tied at 58, Jordan opened the scoring in overtime, burying a three-pointer from the top of the key. This score gave Penn a lead it would never relinquish. "Down the stretch, I just wanted to pull it out for my team," Jordan said. Last week against Kansas, Jordan missed two short jumpers in the lane with time running out. There would be no repeat of that performance last night. "After the Kansas game, I talked to some of my mentors, and they told me to just slow down, settle down and calm down," Jordan said. "That's what I tried to do tonight." From the moment the Quakers stepped on the court, they looked confident. Despite falling behind at the end of the first half and the start of the second, the Quakers never fell too far behind Temple, and they stayed within striking distance. To stay within striking distance, the Quakers knew they had to take the Owls away from their normal game plan. Led by 6'10" forward Lamont Barnes, the Temple frontcourt is the core of its attack. Penn knew this and began Owl-hunting by firing from long distance. Quakers shooting guard Matt Langel got the first hit when he connected from nearly 25 feet to put Penn up 3-0. Treys from Jordan and Jed Ryan, along with a 10-foot jumper by Geoff Owens, gave the Quakers a 11-2 lead with only three minutes gone in the first half. By hitting shots from everywhere beyond the arc, Penn forced Temple to abandon the defense which has made Temple coach John Chaney famous. "[Langel] started shooting the ball from 25 feet out -- that's pretty far out. They made us come out of our match-up" Chaney said. "They made us go out and get them man-to-man." While coming out of their famed match-up zone defense, the Owls turned-up the defensive pressure. Picking up the Quakers before they crossed half-court, the Owls forced Penn to cough up numerous turnovers. While the Quakers' turnovers began to pile up, the Owls finally began to find the bottom of the net. When Quincy Wadley dropped a three with 10:40 remaining in the first half, the Owls pulled to within two of the Red and Blue at 15-13. Turning to a full-court press, Temple found momentum swinging its way. A jumper by Temple forward Mark Karcher with 7:23 left in the half tied the game at 17. On the ensuing inbounds play, Penn succumbed to Temple's full-court press, and the Owls took their first lead on a Greer free throw. The lead change occurred in the middle of a 20-2 run by the Owls, which found them on top, 26-17, at its end. By halftime, Penn had committed 12 turnovers to Temple's one, resulting in 12 Temple points. Nevertheless, Penn kept it close at half, going into the locker room trailing 31-26. Showing shades of last week's game against Kansas, the Quakers came out after the break lethargically. This cold spell in the first few minutes following intermission, however, soon faded away. When Paul Romanczuk drove and scored on a layup, Penn was within three at 39-36. After trading baskets for the next seven minutes, Ryan connected again from downtown and the scoreboard showed Penn with its first lead since the middle of the first half. The Quakers were on top, 49-48, with 6:10 showing on the clock. During the game, Ryan -- who scored 13 points -- buried three shots from past the three point arc, and the ability of a 6'7" forward to contribute far from the basket is one of the main aspects of Penn's game that Temple found frustrating. "We don't have a problem with teams like Stanford because they have a big guy that stays inside," Chaney said. "We have a problem with teams that have five guys running around loose." The Quakers ran around loose for the rest of the game, keeping the Owls from regaining the lead. After trading shots back and forth, Penn's lead was 57-53 with under two minutes remaining. But Temple was relentless, as forward Mark Karcher drove and hit a layup while getting fouled by Ryan. Karcher missed the free throw and fouled Romanczuk on the rebound. Romanczuk hit one foul shot to increase the Penn lead back to three. But Temple sophomore guard Lynn Greer kept the game close by hitting a shot with 58 seconds left, narrowing Penn's lead to one. After a Temple timeout with 10.1 seconds to go in regulation, Penn forward Frank Brown fouled a driving Greer. As the Palestra crowd became louder Greer stepped to the line with 3.4 seconds in the game. He sunk one free throw to send the game to overtime with the score knotted at 58. In overtime, it was almost all Penn. Although the Owls closed to within one with seven seconds remaining, everyone in the Palestra knew who would win this game. When the horn sounded and Penn won, the Quaker faithful stormed the court. They knew this win was big, but they also knew that it could just be the beginning.

Defensive line controls the ball for Penn

(11/23/98 10:00am)

Penn senior Jason Maehr led a group of strong performances by the defensive line on Saturday in Ithaca. ITHACA, N.Y. -- Penn defensive lineman Jason Maehr walked off Cornell's Schoellkopf Field on Saturday, wearing a jersey smeared with blood and dirt. It looked as if Maehr had just been in a street fight. In a way, he was. And he won. Maehr ganged up with other members of the Penn defensive line and spent Saturday afternoon pummeling Cornell quarterback Mike Hood and the Big Red offense. "We went into the game with a game plan that we have a lot of experience up front, and they have a young offensive line so what we wanted to do was take advantage of that," Maehr said. The Quakers' defensive front took advantage of Cornell from the very start of the game. Senior left tackle Larry Rascoe stomped Cornell halfback Deon Harris on the Big Red's first offensive play of the day. The pressure would not stop for the rest of the afternoon. Although the Big Red finished with more total offensive yards than its average for the season, several long completions by Hood led to the totals. Throughout the game, Hood was rushed, hurried, frightened and clobbered by Penn defenders. On one play near the conclusion of the fourth quarter, following a vicious hit by Penn's Ed Galan and Brian Person, Hood stood up and then looked as if he were about to go right back down again. Stumbling, he was reminiscent of a boxer in immense pain who gets up just to avoid a knockout. "Toward the end of the game we kind of wore them down a little bit, got a lot of pressure on them," Maehr said. Penn finished with four sacks, but this stat does not reflect the amount of time Hood spent on his back. He released numerous pass attempts at the last possible instant, avoiding the sack but not the beating. Hood got rid of the ball, but he was rarely able to see where the pass ended. Instead he spent this time becoming acquainted with Maehr, Mike Germino, Adrian Puzio or one of their friends. "Our whole game plan was just trying to get to [Hood] and trying to get him to force it where he's not going to be as comfortable as he would like to be," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Most of the time, it was a four-man rush; occasionally we pressured five and occasionally we pressured six. Most of the time, the front four did a nice job," he said. Maehr finished with two sacks for a total loss of 11 yards, and Germino had one and a half for losses of nine. These sacks -- combined with a plentiful portion of knock-downs -- must have given Hood a splitting headache by game's end. The Penn front line's play must have also given the Cornell offensive line whiplash. The Big Red linemen -- two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior -- tried its best to stop the Quakers linemen. Much more often than not, however, their efforts were in vain as the Red and Blue breezed past them on their way to flattening Hood. "We can dwell on the negatives, but [the Cornell offensive linemen] did the things they had to do to give us a chance. It may not measure up in some situations, but they're doing everything they can do," Cornell coach Peter Mangurian said. "Sometimes it's not good enough." It was not good enough against the Quakers, as the Penn defenders stormed through the line like bulldozers. While Hood was lucky enough to connect with a few receivers, the Big Red running game did not have as much success. Prior to Saturday, Cornell was averaging 103.1 yards per game on the ground. The Quakers held them to a mere 34. When Hood gave the ball to Harris, the line of scrimmage often turned into a brick wall. The Big Red's top ball carrier ran for 2.5 yards per carry, but was often met by unfriendly Quakers before he could get much farther. During a year when Jim Finn breaks the Penn season rushing record and Matt Rader has one of the best seasons for a quarterback in Penn history, it is easy to ignore the contributions of the defensive line, but it was not so easy to ignore on Saturday.

BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK: M. Hoops prepares for next top ten team

(11/19/98 10:00am)

The Penn men's basketball team is preparing for No. 7 Temple, who will come to the Palestra next Monday. Putting Tuesday's down-to-the-wire loss to Kansas behind, the Penn men's basketball team gets back to business today. Penn coach Fran Dunphy gave the Quakers a day off to recover yesterday, but they return to practicing at the Palestra this afternoon. · One game against a top ten team down, one to go. The No. 8 Jayhawks will not even be the highest-ranked team that will take the Palestra court against Penn this month. On Monday night, John Chaney and his Temple Owls -- currently ranked No. 7 nationally -- will pay a visit to their Big Five rivals. Many in national media are calling this group of Owls the most talented in Chaney's 17 years in North Philly. Dunphy, however, knows what Temple will bring to the table next week. "Temple is one of the easier teams to prepare for and one of the harder teams to beat," Dunphy said. "They won't do anything tricky." Temple's physical big men will present a problem for Penn in the frontcourt. Led by 6'10" junior Lamont Barnes, the Owls will pose a threat to Geoff Owens and Paul Romanczuk. The pair finished with just two and four points, respectively, against an athletic Kansas frontcourt. "I have to give [Kansas] credit," Owens said. "They played good defense, but those are shots I usually make." · One concern for the Quakers on Tuesday night was their inability to draw fouls against Kansas. Penn only took four foul shots on the night, two of which were awarded on a technical foul to Kansas coach Roy Williams. Dunphy, however, doesn't believe this will prove as a season-long problem. He regards Kansas' athleticism as the reason for Penn's lack of trips to the charity stripe. The Quakers had a similar problem with the Jayhawks last season, taking just eight free throws in their 89-71 loss. That was the second lowest number of foul shots in a game for Penn all season. The bad news for Penn, however, is that this same problem may reemerge against Temple, who is equally athletic. Last season, the Quakers took a season-low five foul shots against the Owls. · The foul line was not the only place where Penn was not getting quality looks against Kansas. The Quakers were 7-for-22 from three-point land. Take away leading scorer Frank Brown, who was 3-for-4 from downtown, and Penn shot only .222 from beyond the arc. This includes a 2-for-8 night from Matt Langel, who finished last season as the sixth best three-point shooter in the nation at .500. "I think that's a function of Kansas' athleticism and their ability to get their hands up," Dunphy said. · Besides hitting his treys, Brown was on fire from everywhere against Kansas, shooting 7-for-9 for 17 points. Many fans might have been surprised at this outburst, considering Brown missed 41 of Penn's last 55 games with injuries. If Brown can remain healthy and continue to play like he did Tuesday, fans will see much more of him. Against Kansas, Brown was the third man off the Penn bench, following Josh Sanger and Mike Sullivan. This may change soon, as Brown not only saw the most minutes off-the-bench on Tuesday but was also on the floor for more than starters Jed Ryan and Romanczuk. · Penn point guard Michael Jordan played 39 minutes against the Jayhawks and seemed to show some fatigue in the closing seconds. This is due mainly to Penn's current lack of depth at guard. Sophomore Lamar Plummer is still recovering from eye surgery and is expected back by late December. Plummer's return will take pressure off Jordan and Langel, who played 31 minutes. · Penn will not have recent history on its side when it faces Temple. The Owls come into the game with a 16-game winning streak and a 32-15 series lead. The last Penn victory over Temple was on February 9, 1982.

GAME ANALYSIS: Rader dissects Crimson secondary

(11/16/98 10:00am)

First quarter -- Penn ball at its own 22-yard line, first and ten. Penn quarterback Matt Rader takes the snap and runs a bootleg to the right. As several Harvard linemen approach, Rader lofts the ball down the sideline to Brandon Carson, who sprints past Crimson cornerback Glenn Jackson and strolls into the endzone. Penn 13, Harvard 0. Penn never looked back. While Penn halfback Jim Finn ran for over 100 yards and three touchdowns, it was just a normal day at the office for the potential Ivy League Player of the Year. On Saturday, however, Rader was the number one reason for the Quakers' overwhelming offensive success. The 78-yard bomb to Carson -- of which nearly 40 traveled in the air -- was just the beginning. Rader found eight receivers on the day, completing 15-of-25 passes for 260 yards. "Matt Rader really made a huge difference today," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "When they really needed a play, Matt Rader just made a play He's a difference maker." The difference Rader made in the game was evident, as he consistently found the open receiver at the right time. No single Penn receiver had a huge day. Besides the touchdown reception, Carson only made one other catch. Doug O'Neill, Penn's top receiver this season, only saw the ball come his way twice. In fact, reserve wideout Jason Battung -- a converted quarterback -- was the top pass catcher with four. "[The receivers] weren't really experienced coming into this year. By the end of the season, they have a whole year of experience under their belts. They're starting to make some plays, which you like to see," Rader said. In the beginning of the fourth quarter with the Quakers holding a 17 point lead, Penn faced a third-and-six at the Harvard 31. Rader dropped back and looked to Battung. Battung bobbled the ball in the air before falling to the ground at the four-yard line. The play set-up the first touchdown of Jason McGee's career. This pass was typical of the plays Rader made all afternoon. "[Rader] hit every receiver on every pass," Harvard captain Brendan Bibro said. "He's got a great arm and made some great plays. It was frustrating." Rader, who transferred from Duke before last season, is only in his second year at Penn, but is quickly climbing through the record books. While the Quakers haven't had such a skilled quarterback since Mark DeRosa left to play professional baseball in 1994, Rader owes some of his success to the threat posed by a powerhouse back like Finn. With his 260 yards this past weekend, Rader only needs 248 next week at Cornell to become the all-time career leader in passing yards at Penn. That is quite an impressive feat for a man who is only in his second year at the helm of one of the nation's oldest football programs. With Finn having the ability to turn out 100-yard days in his sleep, Rader has more room to make plays. Defenses must concentrate on the rush game, allowing opportunities to open up for the passing game. "If you don't shut down the run, not only are you going to lose, but you'll also be disheartened," Murphy said. "We defended the pass pretty well this year, but today was just one of those days." It was also just one of those days for Rader -- one of the days that has allowed him to become the Ivy League leader in pass efficiency. Rader's play on Saturday, combined with Finn's performance, may lead some to believe that the Quakers had their way with the Harvard defense with both the run and the pass. However, a closer look at the stats will tell a different story. One hundred six rushing yards may be a good day for a mortal Ivy tailback, but it was below average for Penn's star rusher. Last week against Princeton Finn ran for 164 yards. In Princeton's four previous league games, it held all four opponents to 156 total yards on the ground. In this light, holding Finn to 106 yards makes the Crimson run defense seem successful. "Part of the reason [Penn] can throw the ball so well with their play action is that they have such a significant run threat," Murphy said. No one in the Ivies can stop Finn, but by somewhat containing him, Harvard forced Rader to throw. He responded by hitting receivers consistently throughout the game in key situations. At the post-game press conference, Rader answered questions while puffing on a victory cigar. It was a well deserved celebratory smoke for the man who just took his team to the Ivy title.

Front & Center Court

(11/16/98 10:00am)

In a heartbeat, it was over. Geoff Owens had just completed an impressive freshman year with the Penn men's basketball team. He set a Penn rookie record with 40 blocks, and his 2.36 rejections per game was good enough for second in the Ivy League. His sophomore year could have been even better. Many expected him to challenge Hassan Duncombe's single-season Penn record of 51 blocks. Then it ended. His 1997-'98 season was over before it began. During a routine preseason practice, Owens fainted. The incident came as a surprise to Owens and to everyone who knew him. He never had any serious health problems, and no one knew what caused his passing out. "It was so strange because it was something I never had a problem with," Owens said. "I figured I just hadn't eaten enough that day or didn't have enough water." Doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, however, thought it was something more than just an empty stomach. "They went and did a whole test and couldn't really find anything," Owens said. "So they started doing even more basic tests, and they found a possibility that something wasn't perfect." The doctors believed Owens' condition was hypertension-related and that he should not play during the 1997-'98 season. Although he felt as healthy as he ever had, Owens was nervous. He thought about other basketball players with heart conditions -- such as the late Boston Celtic Reggie Lewis -- and wondered what would happen if he continued to play. "When I first heard about it, I was worried. I didn't even want to exert myself walking home. I thought, 'What would happen if I walked too hard up these stairs?'" Owens said. Owens realized that he would not be the one taking the opening tip-off for the Quakers that season. But that did not mean he would not be part of the team. "When he was told that he would not be able to play this season, we walked over to the practice -- it was Coach [Fran] Dunphy, Geoff, his father and me," Owens' mother, Judy Blank, said. "Coach Dunphy called the whole team together to tell them what was going on. "The coaches did everything they could all during the season, and the players were just excellent for Geoff as far as their support." While the players supported Geoff in his recovery, he supported them as they played through the schedule without his 6'11" presence in the paint. Owens continued to attend practices and sat on the bench during every game. Sitting on the bench without his Red and Blue uniform, however, Owens looked more like an assistant coach than the man people expected to lead the Ancient Eight in blocks. While his absence on the court forced players like Jed Ryan and Paul Romanczuk to take on different roles, his presence was not absent from the Quakers' locker room, bench or practices. "We never thought he was away from us emotionally. He was always right there by our side," Dunphy said. "He did a good job of allowing us feel that way." While Owens was supportive of the Quakers, Dunphy also stood by Owens' side during his redshirt season. After the initial diagnosis at HUP, Owens received opinions from doctors in New Jersey and Boston, and his coach was with him the entire time. "Coach Dunphy was terrific throughout the whole process," Patrick Owens, Geoff's father, said. "A lot of people don't know that he accompanied us to the doctors most of the time. One thing that Geoff wants to do is win for the coach, because the coach was really there for him." Emotionally, Owens experienced everything his teammates did, but he also had his own strenuous workouts to match the practices Dunphy ran for the other Quakers. After sitting out the first two months of the season, Owens began to participate in exercises at a doctor's office in January -- exercises that included working out on treadmills, exercise bikes and rowing machines. "They really worked me hard. All those different exercises worked me just as hard as if I had been out on the court," Owens said. After a few months of working out with a doctor, Owens stepped back onto the Palestra court last March. He ran through his first workout with sensors attached to his chest that kept track of his condition on a tylemetry transmitter monitoring system. Soon after this initial outing, which was attended by doctors from Underwood Hospital in New Jersey, Owens was back to normal. It was once again okay for Owens to run the floor like he had during his freshman campaign. He was back to being the kid from Bishop Eustace High School that Dunphy recruited to fill the void left by Tim Krug. Owens entered Penn in 1996 as one-third of a highly-touted triumvirate of a recruiting class -- a class that also included Michael Jordan and Matt Langel. Langel and Jordan are now the starting Quakers backcourt and two of Owens' roommates. The three members of Dunphy's class of 2000 had the opportunity to spend more time together this summer -- time spent honing their skills against professional players who once played in Philadelphia. Owens was not on the floor to help stop Steve Goodrich when Princeton invaded the Palestra in March, but he was there to post up Jason Lawson and Marc Jackson in the summer. These informal workouts -- along with play in the Sonny Hill League and a summer trip to Italy -- has Owens ready to resume play as the big man the Quakers missed last year. "What has helped me out is that I've been playing with the team for so long -- it's been since March that I've been doing the same routine as everyone else," Owens said. "[Playing in my first game this year] is not going to be a big first for me. But I'll be a little nervous, because I haven't played in a real game for a while." He may have taken a year off from his hoops career last season, but that career will get back on course this week when Kansas comes to town. When Owens was a senior in high school, his team from Bishop Eustace lost to national powerhouse St. Anthony's in the New Jersey state final game. This year, he once again has a chance to lead a team that could finish in the top spot in its league. While much of his time has been spent on the court these past few months, Owens has also spent time hanging out with his teammates and his girlfriend, Penn women's basketball forward Diana Caramanico. But his focus has remained on getting back to the court. One of Owens' favorite things to do this fall was to watch another Penn team in action. Quakers wide receiver Brandon Carson is another of his roommates, and Owens has attended several games to watch the Penn football team compete for an Ivy title. While Al Bagnoli's team may be nearing the end of its path to the Ivy championship, the quest for Fran Dunphy's team is about to begin. And Geoff Owens' presence in the middle gives these title hopes more of a chance to be fulfilled. While no one knows exactly why Owens went down last season or even if he ever had a problem, Owens is completely cleared to play again. "The mom in me is a little nervous, but I know it is going to be exciting, because Geoff is going to be excited," Blank said.

Football is one win away from Ivy crown

(11/13/98 10:00am)

If the Penn football team beats Harvard tomorrow, the Ivy title returns home for the first time since '94. It all comes down to this. Although the Penn football team will not clinch an Ivy League title outright unless it wins both of its final two games, for much of the Penn community, the Ivy championship game takes place tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. If Penn (6-2, 4-1 Ivy League) beats defending league champ Harvard (4-4, 3-2) on Franklin Field, the stadium will erupt in cheers and fans will throw enough toast to feed a small nation. But most importantly, the Quakers will have clinched a tie for the Ivy League championship, their first since 1994. "That is why you coach. To put yourself in a situation where you have a chance to win a title," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "One of the reasons kids come to play here is because we have had a good track record the last five or seven years of playing in some significantly big games." What could have been a significantly big game last year went down as one of the most embarrassing losses in recent Quakers football history. Penn traveled to Cambridge, Mass., to take on undefeated Ivy leader Harvard. With a win, the Red and Blue would have moved into a first place tie. Instead, the Crimson stomped Penn on its way to a league title, winning 33-0. The story will be a bit different this season. Harvard is not the dominant team of a year ago. The Crimson started the '98 season with four straight losses, but has compiled three wins and comes into Saturday's game only one game back of the Quakers in the Ivy race. "For some reason, and I don't have the ultimate reason, [Harvard] hasn't clicked on all cylinders," Bagnoli said. "We just hope that it's one more week before they start clicking." One player who has not been running on the same cylinders as last season is Crimson junior running back Chris Menick. Menick set a Harvard record when he led the league with 1,267 rushing yards last year. This season, Menick has only rushed for 692 yards, 464 yards short of conference leader Jim Finn. Last Saturday, Menick's disappointing season took another bad turn. In the third quarter of Harvard's loss to Brown, Menick went down with an ankle injury and did not return. Although he expects to play against the Quakers, he will not be the threat he was last year when he ran for 77 yards and one touchdown. The Harvard passing game is nothing to write about either, ranking last in the Ivies with only 151.40 yards per game. Despite this, the Quakers still expect the Crimson to attack through the air. "In a big game like this where a championship is on the line, I expect them to throw everything they have at us," Penn safety Bruce Rossignol said. "Seeing as how our run defense is ranked somewhere in the top of the nation and our pass defense isn't, I expect them to come out throwing the ball more." The Penn rush defense is ranked fourth in the nation, allowing only 76 yards per game on the ground. Stopping the Harvard offense, however, will only be half the battle. When the Quakers offense takes the field, it will once again put the ball in running back Jim Finn's hands. Finn needs only 147 yards to become the Penn single-season rushing holder and leads the Ivy League with 13 touchdowns. While giving the ball to Finn will remain the top option, Penn quarterback Matt Rader will have several choices tomorrow. "We are going to just keep going the same way, running the ball and throwing the ball and just keeping them off balance," Rader said. "We just want to give our defense a little margin of error." Rader will have multiple options when he turns to the passing game. Receivers Doug O'Neill, Brandon Carson and David Rogers have all emerged as considerable threats. Each of the three ranks in the top fifteen in the league in receiving yards. Another option, of course, would be to turn to one of the top-rated passers in the nation. Finn is now three for three when the Quakers use the halfback option pass, giving him a 516 quarterback rating. While Penn looks to be the clear favorite on paper, the game will not be an easy victory. "We have a lot of respect for Penn. They have a tremendous running game and a good quarterback too," Menick said. "But we're going in with a lot of confidence. We think our chances are good." When the game clock runs out tomorrow, Penn may have beaten the defending Ivy champs and brought at least a share of the crown back to Philadelphia. The season will not, however, be finished. "I don't think it will be done yet, because we still have the Cornell game," Rader said. "We don't want to share this with anybody. It will be a good feeling, but I don't think business will be done yet."

Football meets Princeton for Ivy's top spot

(11/06/98 10:00am)

Penn's first visit to the Tigers' new stadium is critical for both teams. In his four years on the Penn football team, senior co-captain Joe Piela has been through a lot of games. He has seen the Quakers win big games and lose big games, but tomorrow he will compete in the biggest game of his career. Locked in a three-way tie at the top of the Ivy League with Harvard and Princeton, the Quakers will step onto Princeton Stadium's field at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow with their hopes of a league title riding on the outcome. The last game of this magnitude that Piela played in was Penn's 1995 Homecoming Game, a 22-9 Princeton victory that ended the Quakers' title hopes. In that game, however, Piela was only a freshman special teams player. Now, he is the leader of the Penn defense which is entering the final three games of the season -- each of which the Quakers must win to take the Ivy title outright. "Without a doubt, every game now is going to be the biggest game I play," Piela said. "After this game, if we beat Princeton, then we're going to have Harvard and that's going to be a really big game, and if we win the next one, we win it outright." The first installment of this three-part series will take place against the Tigers and their vaunted rush defense, which is ranked first in Division I-AA. Allowing an average of only 54.1 yards on the ground per game, the Princeton rush defense may cause problems for the Penn offense and Ivy League rushing leader Jim Finn. Princeton has allowed a total of 156 rushing yards in its four Ivy games, while Finn has averaged 157 rushing yards in each of Penn's four league contests. "That's the million dollar question. Will [Princeton] be able to stop [Finn]?" Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "We're going to at least make them honor the run. If they can completely shut it down, it will be a long day for your favorite Quakers." Despite Princeton's success against the run, the Quakers will not change the offensive game plan that has worked for them all season. "We're going to have to dictate what we want to do," Penn quarterback Matt Rader said. "In order to be successful, we're going to have to be balanced with both the run and the pass." Rader, who threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns against Yale last week, should be able to pass successfully against the Tigers. Princeton is last in the Ivy League in passing defense, allowing 234 yards per game in the air. Rader will have several options when he drops back to throw this week. Against Yale, receivers Brandon Carson (116 receiving yards) and David Rogers (84) had breakout games. Together with Penn's leading receiver Doug O'Neill, Carson and Rogers give Rader a wider selection of targets. "I have confidence in my receivers and my offensive line to get it done, but that's really not the first option," Rader said. "The first option will be trying to control the ball and to try to score points running and passing." The Penn offense will not be the only offense with more than one option. Piela and the Penn defense expect Princeton to come out with numerous formations. The Tigers feature four tailbacks, each of whom has led the team in rushing for at least one game in '98. Combined, the four horsemen have rushed for 967 yards. In addition, Princeton quarterback John Burnham is averaging 209 yards of total offense per game, the most by a Princeton player since 1988. "I expect them to do the same things they've been doing all year," Piela said. "They go to some four wide receiver stuff. They run some two tight end stuff. I think that they might try to throw the ball initially, seeing as how other teams have had success against us." Passing the ball would seem like a good idea for the Tigers. Opponents are averaging 225 yards in the air against Penn, which ranks seventh in the Ivies in pass defense -- ahead only of the Tigers. "Princeton will probably look for some gimmick play to catch us off-guard," Piela said. "We haven't had an interception in 92 pass attempts. We're going to have to make some plays if we want to win this game." This is the third time in the last five years the Penn-Princeton game has had title implications. In 1994, Penn beat Princeton on their way to the championship. In 1995, the Tigers prevailed in the homecoming game at Franklin Field. That homecoming game drew more than 35,000 fans to Franklin Field. Most current Quakers have never played before a crowd that size, but tomorrow's matchup is expected to draw a crowd approaching that number. Princeton Stadium, which is in its first year of existence, has a capacity of 28,000, and tomorrow's game should draw a crowd near that figure. "This is definitely the biggest game I've ever played in," Penn linebacker Jim Hisgen said. "I've never played in front of 30,000 people." The size of the crowd will be big, but it pales in comparison to the importance that winning this game will have for the Quakers.