On this special Valentine’s Day edition of Turn Back the Clock, we’re reminiscing on a better time.
A time when people weren’t ashamed to sing High School Musical songs yet, when Penn men’s hoops only had two losses in the league for the whole season and when the Quakers looked good for much of their NCAA tournament first-round game against the then-No. 2 Texas Longhorns.
By Feb. 14, 2006, the Red and Blue had been undefeated in the Ivy League and on that night defeated Princeton to extend their reigning streak.
But the game itself wasn’t too pretty. Both Penn and Princeton couldn’t seem to get their footing right, sinking a combined 7-for-25 from beyond the three-point line (28 percent) on the night.
Ultimately, the Quakers had the athletes and stifling defense that proved to be enough for the Quakers' 60-41 win in front of 7,802 at the Palestra.
In the first half, Friedrich Ebede, a senior forward/guard at the time, put the Red and Blue on the board after sinking a three-pointer in his first ever Penn-Princeton game.
Still, both sides struggled offensively, leaving only 23-13 on the board in Penn’s favor at the half.
“Offensively, I thought we were struggling early on," head coach Fran Dunphy said. "Friedrich's three-point play really seemed to settle us down.”
Action picked up in the second half. Juniors forward Mark Zoller and guard Ibrahim Jaaber sank two free throws and a layup, respectively, to boost Penn’s lead to 27-13.
Princeton couldn’t keep up, unable to get within 10 points for the remainder of the game.
“I thought our defense was pretty good tonight, except for a couple of three-pointers they got that were probably defensible,” Dunphy said. “Overall, I was very pleased.”
It was Penn’s third straight victory in the historic rivalry.
“I have so much respect for the Princeton program and how they are playing right now,” Dunphy said. “This matchup always provides a great atmosphere, and tonight was no different.”
Junior forward Steve Danley lead Penn for the night, scoring a season-high 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and filling the box score with three assists, three blocked shots and two steals. Jaaber scored 17 points, dished out two assists and had four more steals to add to his Penn career record, 190 at the time. Zoller finished with his third double-double of the 2005-06 season (15 points, 10 rebounds) and also had three assists.
Slow game or not, it’s nice to remember a time when the Quakers were good enough to take on the Longhorns in the NCAA tournament.