Penn had just clinched its third consecutive Ivy League championship with a no-doubt-about-it win over Yale at the Palestra, and Quakers guard Ibby Jaaber was sitting on the rim after cutting off the last piece of net.
"I got dizzy," Jaaber said with a laugh. "I've never been up that high."
In front of a crowd of 5,818 last night, Penn defeated the Bulldogs, 86-58, to win its 20th straight Ivy League game at home and become the first team in the country to punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament.
When it was over, the Quakers' fans sang the school song instead of storming the court, as is so often done on such occasions.
Penn forward Mark Zoller, who along with fellow senior Jaaber is a leading contender for Ivy League player of the year, surely picked up votes with a 22-point night that included 17 rebounds, six assists, and four blocked shots.
"I think this is even sweeter as a senior," said the 6-foot-7 Zoller, a graduate of St. Joseph's Prep. "We had a goal to come out and win this championship. We had that bull's-eye on our backs. There's still a lot of hard work to be done, but we came out and played like a championship team this evening."
Penn, 20-8 overall and 11-1 in the Ancient Eight, will complete the regular season with games tonight against visiting Brown and Tuesday at Princeton. Yale, which is 13-13 and 9-4, was the Quakers' closest pursuer.
In the Ivy League, which has no postseason conference tournament, the regular-season champion moves on to the Big Dance.
"I'm staying focused on what's in front of us," said Penn coach Glen Miller, who inherited the preseason favorites when Fran Dunphy left the Quakers to take over at Temple. "This is what everybody expected us to do. But we're here. We have to play out these last few games and do well so we can secure a decent [NCAA seeding], and we think we can win in the NCAA tournament."
Yale, which was a 77-68 winner against Penn last month, has not defeated the Quakers at the Palestra in a decade.
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.
"I don't think anybody lost confidence, and that's what kept us ahead," said Jaaber, who finished with 13 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and three steals. "For us to come in and lose to Yale and go out and beat them to become champions at home is kind of special."
Penn took control at the outset by running off 19 straight points. Six Quakers scored to establish a 24-4 advantage.
Quakers center Steve Danley, who was called for a foul on Yale's first possession, picked up his second foul with 15 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the half, and sophomore Brennan Votel came through with eight points as Penn built its lead.
"We knew we had to treat this as a championship game and we just had to come out with confidence," Zoller said. "We felt like we were the best team in the Ivy League, and we wanted to show that, and jump on them early.
"We played terrific defense, and it opened a lot of things up. Everybody was making shots and making plays."
Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum
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