Penn first in NCAA tourney as Ivy champ

With the game well in hand, all Penn fans had to do during the second half tonight was wait for the final horn. Then they could celebrate another Ivy League championship at the Palestra.

And after the Quakers had completed an 86-58 win over Yale in a game that wasn't close after the first couple of minutes, the crowd sang the school song instead of storming the court - as it so often has done on such occasions.

With the victory, Penn became the first team in the nation to gain a berth in the NCAA tournament. The Ivy League does not have a postseason tournament, so the regular-season champion moves on to the Big Dance.

It was the 20th consecutive triumph at home in Ancient Eight play for Penn, which improved to 20-8 overall and 11-1 in the league with two to play. Yale, which was the Quakers' closest pursuer, fell to 13-13 and 9-4.

The Bulldogs, who beat Penn, 77-68, last month on their own court, have not defeated the Quakers at the Palestra in a decade.

For Penn, the championship was its third in a row and its fifth in the last six years. Last season, the Quakers clinched the title at Yale on March 3.

Penn, which was up by 20 points at halftime, had a 62-37 lead with 14 minutes remaining, and it was 81-54 with a little more than two minutes showing on the clock.

When it was over, the Quakers went to their locker room briefly before reappearing to cut down the nets. Many of the students joined the team on the court.

Forward Mark Zoller led Penn with 22 points and 17 rebounds. Guard Ibby Jaaber had 13 points and seven assists on a night when the Quakers held Yale to 18-of-51 shooting from the field.

Eric Flato and Ross Morin each scored 11 points for the Bulldogs.

Penn, which had won seven consecutive games since losing at Yale, took control at the outset. Six Quakers scored as the hosts ran off 19 straight points to establish a 24-4 advantage.

Center Steve Danley, who was called for a foul on Yale's first possession, started Penn's rally with a three-point jumper from the left wing. But he went to the bench after picking up his second foul with 15 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the first half. In his place came sophomore Brennan Votel.

Votel, who was averaging 1.9 points and had a career high of 11, came through with eight points as Penn built its lead.

Also doing yeoman's work were Zoller and Jaaber. The 6-foot-7 Zoller was unguardable in the low post, and even threw in a three-point jumper that put the Quakers ahead, 31-9. Jaaber was mostly penetrating and dishing, though he found time to score eight points in the first 20 minutes.

While Penn came out playing stifling defense, Yale managed to put some baskets together and made some headway. The Bulldogs cut their deficit to 38-25 and appeared to be gaining momentum.

But a 9-2 run by the Quakers, capped by Jaaber's driving layup, put Penn ahead by 20 points, 47-27, with less than three minutes to go before intermission.

Yale was behind, 49-29, at the break.

Zoller had 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots. Jabber had four assists and two steals, and Votel wound up with 10 points in 12 minutes.


Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.