It was going to be an interesting year for the Quakers. With only two starters returning to the lineup and the loss of three All-League players, there were many questions heading into the 2004-05 campaign. Questions where the answers did not come quickly.
In January, the Penn men's basketball team had a 4-7 record and a five-game losing streak. If you asked Penn fans at that time about who was going to win the Quakers' upcoming game against archrival Princeton (favored to repeat as Ivy League champions), many would have been skeptical about the outcome. But the 2005 Quakers proved all the skeptics wrong. Penn won 16 of its final 17 games, which included an 18-point second half comeback and overtime win against Princeton, to clinch its third Ivy title in four years, fifth in seven years and ninth under Head Coach Fran Dunphy.
How did the Quakers do it? Much of the credit goes to senior captain Tim Begley, the 2005 Ivy League Player of the Year, who took ownership of this team on and off the court and rallied the program to its 23rd Ancient Eight title, en route to earning his third All-Ivy selection as one of three unanimous first-team honorees. Begley led the team in scoring (13.9 ppg), assists (134) and three-pointers made (71), and recorded 20 double-figure scoring games for the Red and Blue, including 16 of the last 20 contests. He broke the all-time three-point record at Penn (248), the all-time three-point attempts record (591, the single game assists record (13) and became the 32nd Penn player to reach 1,000 career points. But it was not only Begley's talent on the court that guided the Quakers, but his heart, dedication and love of the game.
The Quakers started the season off on a high note, but two very tough games on the road sent the Quakers back to The Palestra with a 1-2 record. The Quakers opened the 2004-05 campaign in the Preseason NIT against Quinnipiac. Penn dominated the Bobcats, 74-60, in The Palestra for the program's first Preseason NIT victory. Sophomore Mark Zoller came off the bench and recorded a double-double, while Begley paced the Red and Blue with 22 points. The Quakers faced off against a tough Providence team in the second round. The Friars were hovering around the top-25 at the time and the Quakers couldn't keep stride, falling, 89-52. Penn tried to regroup against No. 20 Wisconsin, but the Badgers shot 50 percent from the field and rolled to a 77-44 win.
Back in the friendly confines of The Palestra, Penn won three-straight games and improved to 4-2 overall. Zoller recorded his second double-double of the season in Penn's 81-50 win over Drexel, classmate Ibrahim Jaaber scored 14 points, grabbed seven rebounds and picked up seven steals to lead the Quakers against Bucknell and Begley went 8-of-11 from beyond the arc against La Salle to score a career-high 29 points and down the Explorers, 78-67, in the Big 5 Classic.
The Quakers struggled over the next few weeks, falling in five-straight games, including a one-point heartbreaker to Big 5 rival Temple, 52-51. Senior Eric Osmundson, who had struggled from the field early in the season, found his shot against the Owls. Osmundson nailed 6-of-8 treys for a career-high 20 points, but Penn couldn't hang onto a 51-46 lead with three minutes left.
After a 23 day layoff for exams and holiday break, Penn faced Villanova to end the year of 2004. Penn cut an 11-point halftime deficit to as little as five three times in the last 20 minutes, but Villanova kept pulling away and eventually won the game, 74-64. Jaaber led four Quakers in double figures with a then career-high 22 points.
The Quakers hoped a trip out West would cure their losing woes, but a tough San Francisco team had other plans. Led by Jaaber's 12 points and 9-0 second half run sparked by Begley, the Quakers tied the game at 59. But fouls down the stretch gave the Dons a 65-61 victory, and the Quakers returned home without a much needed confidence boost. Staying out on the road to open 2005, Begley led the Red and Blue with his first double-double of the season against Illinois-Chicago in Penn's next outing, but it was the Flames who would take away the 57-47 victory.
With a 4-6 record, including an 0-6 mark on the road, the Quakers couldn't have been happier about heading back to The Palestra. Unfortunately, the friendly confines of Penn's home gym did not help the Red and Blue overcome a five-game losing skid. Rider took the Quakers into overtime and handed Penn its first loss on 33rd Street, 74-68.
Everything changed on January 15 when the Red and Blue won the first of 11-straight games. The Quakers starting hitting their shots and hitting lots of them. Penn won the first seven of those games by an average of 20.3 points. The streak started with an 89-62 win at Siena where Zoller scored 18 points and Osmundson chipped in with 17, including the first seven points of the game. Jaaber and Osmundson both scored 20+ points against Lafayette, but it was Begley's school record of 13 assists that caught everyone's attention in Penn's 85-63 win.
Big 5 rival Saint Joseph's was the next victim in Penn's streak. In a road contest for the Quakers in their own gym, Penn had four players score in double figures as Penn cruised to a 67-59 victory and finished the Big 5 season with a 2-2 record.
Steve Danley made a statement in Penn's Ivy League opening weekend. The sophomore forward led the Quakers against Yale and Brown with back-to-back career-highs. Penn held Yale, the Ivy League's leading offense, to just 44 points. The following night, Danley went 7-for-7 from the field in the first 20 minutes and scored 22 points, while the Quakers held the League's leading scorer, Jason Forte, scoreless in the first half. Danley earned his first Ivy League accolade as he was named Player of the Week.
Its first two road victories of the season, downing Harvard, 70-57, and Dartmouth, 68-44. Begley scored 35 points over the weekend, including his 1,000th career point with 16:26 remaining against Dartmouth.
Next up for the Red and Blue were three games in five days, including one against Penn's archrival to the North - Princeton. In classic Penn-Princeton fashion, the first meeting of the 2004-05 season did not disappoint. The Tigers came out with a spark against the Quakers and took a 32-17 lead in the locker room. With eight minutes left in the second half, the Quakers were down 18 points and it seemed like the game was over. But Penn went on a 21-3 run, which included seven-straight points from Osmundson and five points from Jan Fikiel, and tied the game at 56 with 31 seconds left in regulation. Princeton had a chance to win on its last possession, but missed. Penn dominated the five minute overtime period, outscoring the Tigers, 14-6, to remain undefeated in Ancient Eight action, and complete one of the program's best comebacks in recent memory.
Penn took two wins from Columbia and Cornell that next weekend after rallying from behind in the second half of both games. Begley was the catalyst, sparking a 19-6 run against the Lions with a blocked shot and three-pointer on the other end. Against the Big Red, Begley scored 16 second-half points to lead Penn to a 64-50 victory.
After the first round of League games, the Quakers were in good shape with a 7-0 record and a three-game lead in the conference standings. Zoller recorded his third double-double of the season while three other Quakers scored in double figures in Penn's 79-62 win over Brown on Feb. 18. A win against Yale would have given the Quakers at least a share of the Ancient Eight crown (which would have been the earliest conference title in Ivy League history), but the Bulldogs put a stop to the Quakers win streak, handing Penn its first Ivy loss of the season, 78-60.
The Quakers quickly recovered from their poor outing in New Haven and collected two wins on the road in the Empire State. Freshman David Whitehurst earned a spot in the starting lineup as Penn won at least a share of the Ivy League title with a 66-49 vicotry over Cornell and clinched the title outright the following night in New York City on Feb. 26. Jaaber scored a career-high 26 points to lead Penn to an 80-72 victory over Columbia and the Quakers were going "Dancing" for the eighth time under Coach Dunphy.
Despite their Ivy title in hand and a 21st trip to the NCAA tournament just a few weeks away, the Quakers still had a job to do. And they did it admirably, finishing the season winning their last three contests. Zoller and Begley scored in double figures in Penn's win against Dartmouth in The Palestra, but it was Jaaber who stole the show with his Penn and Ivy record nine steals in the game. Penn held Dartmouth to just 37 points and 32.7 percent shooting.
On senior night against the Crimson, it was a trio of underclassmen who shined. Zoller led the Red and Blue with his fourth double-double of the season, while Danley added 14 points and Whitehurst poured in a career-best 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Penn closed out the season with a win at Princeton to hand the Tigers its first losing season in conference play in the League's 49 year history.
The Quakers know there are a few bright spots in the future of the basketball program, as three sophomores joined Begley on the All-Ivy team, as Jaaber earned second-team honors, while Danley and Zoller were named honorable mention, making Penn the only team to have four all-league honorees.
Begley finished the regular season fifth in the League in scoring, eighth in rebounds and led the conference in assists, three pointers made and assist/turnover ratio. He recorded his 1,000th career point against Dartmouth on Feb. 5 and has scored 1,146 career points which ranks 23rd all-time at Penn. Begley is the 13th Penn player to earn Player of the Year honors, and seventh under Dunphy, and made his third appearance on the All-Ivy honor roll, as he was named second-team in 2003-04 and honorable mention in 2002-03.
Jaaber earned his first All-Ivy honor after leading the Quakers and Ivy League in steals. He averaged 11.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 3.0 spg during his second year, and recorded a season and career-high 26 points against Columbia in Penn's title clinching win on Feb. 26. Jaaber broke the Penn and Ivy League single game (9) and single season (83) steals records this season.
Danley was third on the Quakers in scoring with 9.5 ppg, third in rebounding with 5.1 rgp and led the team in blocks with 26. Danley recorded a season and career-high 22 points in Penn's victory over Brown on Jan. 29. The starting forward ranks 10th in the Ancient Eight in rebounding and eighth in offensive boards (1.68).
Zoller led the Quakers in rebounding with 6.4 rpg and was fourth in scoring with 9.3 ppg. Zoller recorded a season-high 22 points twice this season and recorded four double-doubles. He ranks fifth in the Ancient Eight in rebounds, fourth in defensive boards (4.46) and sixth in offensive rebounds (1.89).
The Penn faithful finally have its answers to those unresolved questions from November. Penn recorded its eighth 20-win regular season under Dunphy and another Red and Blue team is headedto the NCAA Tournament. Penn clinched the 2004-05 Ivy League title with three games remaining in the season for just the third time in League history and several Penn and Ivy League records now have new names on them. The Quakers now await their NCAA first round matchup in hopes of bringing a victory home for the first time since the 1993-94 campaign.
Written by Heather Palmer, associate director of athletic communications