PHILADELPHIA - The last time Mark Zoller played against Yale, he went 2-of-10 from the field and finished with just eight points.
Given the circumstances heading into Friday night's meeting with the Bulldogs at The Palestra, was there any doubt that the senior forward would rise to the occasion?
Thanks to an 86-58 win over the Bulldogs that felt more like a coronation than an actual game, Penn has now won three Ivy League titles in a row and will advance to its third-straight NCAA Tournament. The Quakers -- who are the first team into the 65-team field -- will find out their seed, opponent and the site of their first-round game next Sunday.
Zoller's stat line was simply ridiculous Friday night: 22 points,including 9-of-15 shooting from the field; 17 rebounds, one shy of a career high; six assists, tying a career best; four blocked shots; and four steals. Needless to say, when head coach Glen Miller pulled him late in the second half, the crowd of 5,818 rose as one to give him a standing ovation.
And what of his classmates? Ibrahim Jaaber and Steve Danley will join Zoller at center court Saturday night, whenPenn honors thematthe final home game of their collegiate careers. On this night, Jaaber scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out seven assists. Danley, meanwhile, went a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and scored 11 points; he also had three assists.
Penn (20-8, 11-1 Ivy) has now won eight games in a row, all but one of them by double digits. The Quakers have also won nine of their last 10, and 14 of their last 16. In addition, Penn has won 20-straight Ivy League home games heading into Saturday night's contest with Brown at The Palestra, and is an incredible36-4 in Ivy play the last three seasons.
Yale's Casey Hughes opened the game with a pair of free throws to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. Shortly after that, Penn freshman Darren Smith knocked down a three-pointer to give the Quakers a 3-2 advantage.
Penn never trailed again.
Instead, the Quakers matched buckets with the Bulldogs, then reeled off a staggering 19 points in a row to take a 24-4 lead with just eight minutes gone. At that point, The Palestra was at fever pitch and you just knew that this one was over.
One of the key playersin that game-breakingrun? How about sophomore Brennan Votel, who came up with 10 points and five boards (four on the offensive glass) during the streak.
Yale (13-13, 9-4 Ivy)tried to get back into the game, and actually cut it to 13 on a few occasions before halftime. With the score 40-27, Votel knocked down a layup, Kevin Egee drained a three-pointer and then Jaaber shook free for a layup that pushed the lead back up to 20. The half ended 49-29, and very nearly got worse than that when Zoller heaved a 70-foot shot thatbanked and nearly went down before rattling out.
Yale briefly unnerved the crowdby scoring the first six points of the second half, and seemed to discover some of the confidence that led them to a win over Penn earlier this season in New Haven. However,the Quakerswent on a 13-2 run over the game's next four minutes to restore order and take a 62-37 lead. That advantage never got below 23 points.
Though the title was clinched, two games still remain on the Penn schedule as the Quakers look to solidify a good seeding for the NCAAs. They will host Brown at The Palestra Saturday night; Senior Night festivities for Danley, Jaaber, Zoller and Adam Franklin will begin at approximately 6:45, with tipoff slated for 7 p.m.