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Men are Ivy champs again; women post best record ever.

 By Noel Hynd

Call it graduating with honors. Last year, Penn’s stellar backcourt of juniors Michael Jordan and Matt Langel helped propel the men’s basketball team to their first Ivy League basketball title in three years. As memorable as that experience was, Jordan and Langel had an even higher goal in mind for their senior year—and achieved it.
    After a somewhat rocky start that had some fainthearted fans questioning their ability to repeat as champions, the team dominated its Ivy League opponents, posting a perfect record in League play. As the hoop gods would have it, in the final game of the season, the Quakers faced our old friends from that well known Ivy League school in New Jersey. The championship was no longer in doubt—Penn had already clinched it with a 69-52 victory over Yale—but more than that was at stake. Going into the game, the Quakers had won 13 straight, but the striped cats 
had their own winning streak (nine victories) and their pride to motivate them.
    But can you say “14 in a row?”
    While memories of last season’s nightmarish comeback by the Tigers at the Palestra provided some mental drama for those in the stands, on the court the game’s outcome was never seriously in doubt. Penn was 30-for-53 (57 percent) from the field, had four starters in double figures and outscored Princeton 20-0 in the paint in the first half, opening a double-digit lead they would not relinquish.
    Freshman Ugonna Onyekwe had 20 points, including some spectacular dunks; senior Geoff Owens had 14; and Langel had 11, all in the second half, as the Quakers put away the Tigers, 73-52—an unusually wide margin for a Penn-Princeton game.
    “[The undefeated season is] something we talked about,’’ said guard Jordan, who had 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting in his final game at the Palestra. “In this league, without a tournament, you need to get as many wins as you can.’’
    The Ivy League coaches voted Jordan the Ivy League Player of the Year and Onyekwe Rookie of the Year. Jordan and Langel also were named to the All-Ivy First Team, while Onyekwe and Owens received second-team honors.
    The Ivy League championship also meant a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the Quakers—though, unfortunately, their taste of March Madness was all too brief. In 1999, Penn lost in the first round to Florida, which this year made it to the finals before being defeated by Michigan State. Penn’s opponent this time was the University of Illinois, and while the Quakers played gamely, they were overmatched and outgunned.
    Illinois’ Frank Williams scored a season-high 21 points in a 68-58 victory over the Quakers on March 17 in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Illini forced 13 turnovers, converted them into 18 points and harassed the Ivy League champions into 37-percent shooting. Illinois also capitalized on first-half foul trouble by Jordan, who was held to eight points. Jordan’s absence in the opening half helped the Illini build a lead they never relinquished. Penn, ending the season at a highly commendable 21-8, got 17 points from Ugonna Onyekwe and 11 from Matt Langel in the loss.
    While it was disappointing for the Quakers to leave the tournament so early, toward season’s end Coach Fran Dunphy spoke a few words that perhaps put Penn’s basketball program in perfect perspective.
    “We have a philosophy that we coach memories and experiences as much as we coach the games,” Dunphy said. “When our guys are out of school 10, 20 or 30 years from now, they are going to look back and say, ‘We went to Phog Allen Arena and Rupp Arena.’ They went to Auburn, who was pre-season number one. They have been all over the country, all over the world. They can’t have had greater experiences. I think that is part of our job. They can look back when they are little bit older, a little bit more mature and say, ‘I had a hell of a career.’”
    While the Penn’s women’s basketball squad did not win an Ivy title, falling short of pre-season hopes, they nevertheless scored several firsts. The team ended the 1999-2000 season with a school-record 18 wins and a school-record .643 winning percentage. They also set a new record for points in a season, with 2,122, and a new mark for team scoring average with 75.8 points per game.
    Junior Diana Caramanico was named the 1999-2000 Ivy League Player of the Year and also awarded District I Kodak/WBCA All-America honors, as announced in March by the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association. This was Caramanico’s second consecutive Ivy League Player of the Year honor, and her third major Ivy honor of her career—she was Rookie of the Year in 1997-98.
    Caramanico finished her junior season with 1,808 career points. Her average of 24.9 points per game places her second in the nation (Division I) and first in the Ivy League in scoring average. She is the all-time leading scorer in Penn women’s basketball history, having surpassed the previous mark of 1,656 points set by Kirsten Brendel C’91 against Cornell on Feb. 18, 2000.
    In addition to being selected for the District I All-America team, Caramanico is one of 48 overall finalists for the 10-person national team that will be selected by the member coaches from each of the eight WBCA geographical districts.

In other winter sports, two-time senior All-American Brett Matter became Pennsylvania’s first NCAA Champion in wrestling since Richard DiBatista Ed’43 GEd’46 (1941 and 1942) by defeating Larry Quisel of Boise State University 4-2 in the championship final of the 2000 NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis.
    The all-time winningest wrestler in Penn history with a career record of 128-14, Matter has another distinction as well. He belongs to one of just four sets of father-son NCAA champions in wrestling. His father, Andrew Matter, was a two-time NCAA champion for Penn State University in 1971-72. In addition to becoming a national champion, Matter is a four-time NCAA qualifier, four-time EIWA champion and a four-time All-Ivy League selection.
    In the team race, Penn finished ninth with 44.0 team points. The 2000 NCAA Championship title was awarded to the University of Iowa with 116.0 team points. The top-10 finish for the Quakers is the first since 1942, when Penn finished eighth.
    Finally, eight University of Pennsylvania fencers were named to the 1999-2000 All-Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Fencing Teams. Junior Mike Golia, Penn’s lone first-team honoree, was selected to the saber squad for the third straight season. He recently won his second consecutive IFA title and was third at the regional championship at Penn State. Second-team honorees included sophomores Jeff Lee and Daniel Vincent in the saber; the Cohen brothers—David, a junior, and Yale, a freshman—in the foil; sophomore James Benson in the epee; and freshmen Lauren Staudinger (foil) and Kim Linton (epee).

Noel Hynd C’70 writes on sports for the Gazette.

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