Penn Playbook: Drexel win a hoops turning point?

After what could only be described as a turbulent start to its 2004 season, the Penn men’s basketball team found its footing in a late November matchup with West Philly rival Drexel.

And it seemed, at least as of this printing, that the win may have marked an early turning point to the Quakers’ season.

Penn entered the season with hopes of making a run at the Ivy League title, but in their first real tests of the season—against big-conference opponents Providence and Wisconsin—they hardly looked like contenders. In back-to-back losses, the Quakers were muscled around by the Friars, 89-52, and battered by the Badgers, 77-44.

So it would not be surprising if Penn hoops fans were getting a tad concerned about their team when the Quakers also found themselves struggling against the Dragons on Nov. 24. Late in the first half, Drexel held a five-point lead.

That’s right about when Penn woke up. The Quakers ended the first half with a 13-0 run and didn’t look back, dominating the Dragons the rest of the way. By the time it was over, and Penn had won 81-50, Drexel coach Bruiser Flint could only say Penn had played “like a cornered animal.” Penn Coach Fran Dunphy, for his part, said, despite the tough losses against Providence and Wisconsin, he was not entirely surprised by his team’s rebound performance against Drexel.

“In the first half, we had a chance to tank it, pack it in there,” Dunphy said. “But I think that the quality of the person [we have] came to the court.”

The comeback win was a nice boost for the Quakers as they prepared to battle three local rivals in the span of a week. Between Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 the Quakers were to face Bucknell, LaSalle and Temple—three very winnable games. Coming out of that stretch at 3-0 would be a major boost—if only psychologically—for the Quakers’ post-season hopes.

They certainly got off to a good start on Dec. 1, knocking off Bucknell, 65-42, in a game that saw Penn take an early lead and hold off a Bucknell rally. “It’s frustrating not to put teams away,” sophomore Steve Danley said afterward. “We need more consistency in our game.”

But while it wasn’t the prettiest of wins, it was a win nonetheless—exactly what Penn needed after the comeback over Drexel, and exactly what they needed as they headed into the meat of their schedule.

Black earns national honor

Penn’s field hockey team enjoyed one of its finest seasons in years this fall, and freshman Melissa Black was a big reason why. Black, a freshman defender, was twice named Ivy League Rookie of the Week during the season and helped the Quaker defense notch eight shutouts. For her efforts, Black was recently named to Womensfieldhockey.com’s national All-Rookie Team. She is one of just 16 freshmen nationwide to earn the honor. The good news was just the latest for the Quakers, who shared the Ivy League title with Harvard after recording 13 wins this season—the second-highest total in school history.

Originally published on December 9, 2004