Penn is next because the Palestra bathrooms are hallowed ground … if you pick the right door.
There are few things more deflating for a Penn hoops fan than losing to Princeton. The now infamous “Black Tuesday” incident of February 1999 was unprecedented in both its pain and scope. The Tigers roared back from an incredible 33-9 halftime deficit at the Palestra to cap one of the most historic comebacks in the fabled rivalry. The painful 50-49 victory was one that Quaker fans would not soon forget. I attended this game and had never seen a meltdown of this proportion against our principal rival. When I think about, it is still incomprehensible.
However, as they say at the Palestra, “Revenge is a dish served steaming hot.” (I hate clichés.) Six years later, the Tigers had replaced the venerable Pete Carril with the alienating Joe Scott on the Princeton bench. What’s more, they had Judson Wallace mouthing off about how his team would not only win the Ivy title, but sweep the rest of the league as well: “I might get in trouble fast, but our team will win our next 10 games in a row. I know that.”
(For the record, no one likes a braggart from Jersey.)
The game started off so poorly for the Quakers that I, as I have already mentioned in an earlier post, turned off my car radio and headed home. By halftime, Princeton had a commanding 32-17 lead. The beginning of the second half was looking just as grim for Penn with the Tigers extending their lead to 53-35 with only 7:35 to play. That’s when Penn coach Fran Dunphy instituted full court pressure (a 1-2-2 trap) and the Tiger resolve began to crumble like a cheap orange and black suit you’d buy at a thrift store on Nassau Street. Unable to deal with the pressure defense, turnover after turnover allowed the Quakers to get back into the game until Eric Osmundson tied the contest on a pair of free throws with 31 seconds left forcing overtime. The home team then finished what it had started by finally sealing an emotional win, 70-62. Propelled by this victory, the Quakers would go on to win the Ivy title. After the game, Osmundson summed it up best:
“Dunphy would tell us that this is as good as it gets. He’d say, ‘You may go on to play professional basketball, but the time you’re at Penn being part of this team, it will never get better.’ And I think of that moment and I think of that statement, and I smile because it’s so true.”
BTW, Judson Wallace fouled out with 1:06 left in regulation.
Stay Red and Blue my Friends,
*For the best firsthand recollections of this game, see Dave Zeitlin’s great Penn Gazette article from earlier this year.