“It Was Like Living In a Dream”

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For any team from a smaller conference, there’s nothing better than pulling off a March Madness upset. Twenty-five years ago, the Penn men’s basketball team accomplished such a feat, winning the program’s first NCAA Tournament game since 1980. The Quakers haven’t won another since.

In honor of the game’s 25-year anniversary this Sunday, the Gazette spoke with many of the former players and coaches from Penn’s 1993–94 team (perhaps the best Quakers squad of the last 40 years, along with the one that stormed to the 1979 Final Four), as well as a few media members and fans who were along for the ride. Here are their recollections—compiled into an oral history format. 

“Not Afraid of Anyone”

After below-.500 seasons in his first two seasons in charge, head coach Fran Dunphy guided Penn to a 16–10 overall mark in the 1991–92 campaign followed by a 22–5 overall record complete with the program’s first Ivy League championship in six years. But a young 1992–93 Quakers squad without any seniors was bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the first round, by UMass.

The narrow four-point tourney loss, however, showed them that they belonged on that stage. And the Quakers, led by two future NBA guards in Jerome Allen W’09 and Matt Maloney C’95, kept that swagger and confidence throughout a wildly successful 1993–94 season in which they only lost two games—on the road to Ohio State and nationally ranked Temple—before drawing an 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament against sixth-seeded Nebraska.

[Ed. Note: Allen did not respond to an interview request for this piece. He testified about taking bribes while serving as Penn’s head coach from 2010-15 after the other interviews were completed.]

Scott Kegler C’95, junior guard: The first time we played in the tournament, I felt a little odd. We played in the Carrier Dome, there was a lot more media, the gym seemed huge, the basket seemed weird.

Tim Krug C’96, sophomore forward: A lot of it was just a first-time thing. It was almost overwhelming, at least for me.

Andy Baratta C’95, senior forward: We didn’t know how much to pack, we didn’t know how long timeouts were, we didn’t know what our emotional state would be.

Kegler: By the second year, the team felt like it was not afraid of anyone. We had gelled as a unit, and everyone slid into their role, and it all came together at the right time.

Dan Feldman C’94, Daily Pennsylvanian: They were all business all year long. Every game was pretty dominant, especially in the Ivy League. The other teams were in awe of them.

Shawn Trice C’95, junior forward: We thought we should beat everybody.

Scott Graham C’87, radio announcer: That team was so immensely talented and so different from what we were used to seeing out of a Penn team. They weren’t just a great Ivy League team; they could compete with anybody.

Baratta: I felt like our seed was incorrect. We should have been a higher seed based on our season.

Krug: There was definitely a sense that because we were an Ivy League team, we weren’t getting the respect we should have, despite being a two-loss team. It gives you a little chip on your shoulder. OK, we’re going to come out and show you guys just how wrong you are.

Andy Glockner C’94 W’94, student fan (and football player)When I saw we were an 11 seed, my first reaction was “That’s way too low” and my second was “Who do we get in the second round? We’ll beat Nebraska.”   

The Quakers had an immediate advantage, playing at nearby Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, where there were far more Penn fans than Nebraska supporters. The Cornhuskers, fresh off a Big 8 Tournament championship, were also not a traditional big-conference powerhouse, having never before won in the NCAA Tournament. The Quakers, meanwhile, owned the best win-loss percentage in the country.

Feldman: You looked at their team and that’s the kind of team Penn could beat. They did not have any strong big men. Penn would lose to teams that would bully them inside.

Glockner: I remember in the run-up to the game, [Nebraska coach] Danny Nee said something like “We’re going to force them to run” and I was like “Have you watched any tape of this team?” It was a perfect matchup for Penn—a team that wanted to play a 94-foot game and didn’t have a dominant big man. They were also over-seeded after winning the Big 8 Tournament.

Steve Donahue, assistant coach (now Penn’s head coach): We got a little lucky with Nebraska. They played Sunday when they won the Big 8 and then had to play Thursday on the East Coast.

Baratta: All of us believed we were going to win that game. That was an interesting feeling to realize.

Feldman: You could just tell the day before in the shootaround and in the press availability, they were extremely confident.

Eric Moore W’95, junior forward: There was great energy in the building. I remember stretching and looking over at Jerome and saying, “We’re gonna win this.”

Donahue: When we got to the arena that night, it seemed like a Penn home game. There was an incredible amount of alums there.

Feldman: I didn’t realize until they started the introductions that there were Penn people everywhere. It was loud. It was about 80 percent Penn fans, and it was pretty cool to hear. I think that energized the team—and they came out firing.

Kegler: You could hear and feel the Penn fans.

Allan Bell C’81, longtime season-ticket holder: I was definitely there. Every Metro New York-area fan was there. And I think later that night or the next day, it was replayed on some channel, and I sat there with my kids watching it.

Glockner: The building was rocking. It was a very rare atmosphere for a tournament game. After the game, I was walking the concourse in my Penn sweatshirt and high-fiving everyone in sight.

Scott Graham: The fact that Penn’s got a pretty big alumni group in the New York area, that helped. Mix in the fact that any time you get in a tournament situation, everyone’s rooting for the team with dark jerseys on. And if you weren’t a Penn fan before the game started, you certainly were by the time you watched just a little bit of that game.

Bill Guthrie C’98, sophomore forward: We were loose. I remember just being really loose for that game.

Mike Jensen, Philadelphia Inquirer: I remember saying out loud on press row before the game that Penn looked tight in warm-ups. I never bothered looking at such things ever again. They must have had grim faces, but obviously they were the opposite of tight, the way the game started.

Matt Maloney rises up for a shot vs. Nebraska (courtesy of Penn Athletics).

Matt Maloney rises up for a shot vs. Nebraska (courtesy of Penn Athletics).

“No Idea What Was About to Hit ’Em”

Led by Barry Pierce W’94, who scored the team’s first two buckets and added an early three-point play, the Quakers raced out to a 13–2 lead. After Maloney and Allen each hit tough threes, announcer James Brown (a former Harvard basketball player) told his color man Billy Packer, “I tell you what, the first few minutes of the ball game, Pennsylvania looks absolutely awesome!”

Jensen: I remember talking to Penn players later who almost sounded insulted that Nebraska hadn’t scouted their direct inbounds pass to Pierce in the lane. It worked right off the bat.

Guthrie: I don’t think there was any doubt we took them by surprise. I gotta imagine Nebraska is one of those areas they hear “Penn” and they think “Penn State.”

Scott Graham: Nebraska had no real feel that they were going up against a team that was as athletic as Penn was. It was funny to watch how taken aback they were, how stunned they looked during the game. And Penn just didn’t take its foot off the gas.

Donahue: I don’t think they had any idea what was about to hit ’em.

Krug: Maybe we got underestimated a little bit. But I think they just ran into a really good team.

Jensen: Barry Pierce was a special player—a midrange specialist who knew how to take a defender where he wanted to go. College hoops was transitioning to three-guard offenses and he was ahead of that curve.

Fran Dunphy, head coach: He was very underrated. He was someone you could count on. He had great confidence in himself—that’s what I remember about Barry.

Feldman: He was 6–3 and could jump out of the gym. He played small forward but was kind of like [Charles] Barkley—without the big butt—in the sense he could rebound better than his size.

Nat Graham C’97, freshman forward (now a Penn assistant coach): People don’t realize how good Barry was. He’s the kind of player you don’t see anymore—shooting short-range jumpers, doesn’t really dribble a lot.

Donahue: His ability to score the basketball in different ways was always difficult for teams to match up against.

Krug: He probably didn’t get the attention he deserved. I think he sometimes took it upon himself to prove to people, Hey, don’t forget about me. Sometimes when we needed it, he would just take over.

Trice: He always played with a chip on his shoulder. We all did, but I think Barry had something to prove to everybody.

Kegler: He wasn’t that big, but he did kind of whatever he wanted to do. Barry was at the peak of his game.

Baratta: Barry remains one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known. His confidence in himself was unshakable. And no one outside of the program understood how good he was.

Guthrie: There were four NBA players on the court, and he was the best player in that game.

Nebraska tied it up at 19–19 on a great drive from Eric Piatkowski, the Cornhuskers’ star player who went on to have a long NBA career with teammate Erick Strickland. But at that point, Maloney had a steal and fed Allen for a beautiful basket to stop a 9–0 Cornhusker run.

More surprising than the play of Penn’s standout guards was that of Moore, who scored on a post move, drew a charge, had a tap-in, threw a perfect backdoor pass, scored on a transition break, and even banked in a three-pointer to help the Quakers reopen a comfortable lead at 36–22. Moore—an undersized 6-foot-6 center who split time in the frontcourt with Trice, Krug and Baratta—had 13 points (well above his season average) in the first half to help the Quakers take a 46–34 lead into halftime as Brown told the TV audience, “Nebraska is wondering what hit ’em! They’ve run into a buzzsaw here!”

Dunphy: I do recall the banked shot, and his reaction afterwards was priceless.

Nat Graham: Eric Moore had a habit of banking threes. And Eric Moore had a habit of trying to do all the stuff that in everybody’s mind but his he shouldn’t be doing. We called him Bean and Dunphy, I believe, once said, “Bean, you’re not like Magic Johnson. You’re just like Bean.”

MooreObviously I didn’t plan on banking that shot in.

Baratta: I remember him smiling when he did that. That was a great sign in the moment. Things are going our way and even Bean’s having fun.

Krug: When things are going your way, they’re going your way.

Moore: It was just our day.

Jensen: Eric Moore had shoulders that made him play a lot bigger than 6-6. That was true even if he wasn’t scoring like he did in the first half of this game.

Kegler: One of the things I loved about Eric is he was fearless. He’s probably 6-6 but he could guard anyone. He was not afraid of anyone.

Dunphy: He worked his butt off to be the best player he could be.

Trice: We had a number of guys who stepped up at different moments throughout the year. It was his turn and he stepped up.

Krug: We basically had a four-big man rotation—if you could call it that. We weren’t big, but we made it work.

Baratta: My go-to move was to basically punch a guy in the balls who was going to dunk on me. We were undersized and under-athletic—except for Krug, who was deceptively athletic. We were operating with craftiness and cheap shots.

Moore: We could all step away from the basket, which opened up the lane for everybody else. That was an important part of our offense.

Trice: We all knew we would be undersized in a lot of situations. We wouldn’t be the strongest, obviously not the tallest. But we learned to battle and take care of one another. 

Jerome Allen goes to the hoop vs. Nebraska (courtesy of Penn Athletics).

Jerome Allen goes to the hoop vs. Nebraska (courtesy of Penn Athletics).

“Unlike Anything That People Had Seen”

Nebraska, who shot 0 for 10 from three-point range in the first half, played better out of the break and began to cut into Penn’s lead while Pierce and Kegler each got hit with their third fouls. But with the Quakers up 50–44, Maloney made a deep three-pointer, and Allen, who won the last two Ivy League Player of the Year awards, then had two of his own to help Penn regain control. That’s just what Penn’s stars did, time and again. 

Scott Graham: That twosome was unlike anything that people had seen in a long time—at the Ivy League level and beyond that.

Krug: There was certainly a comfort level when you had those two guys on the ball. Who doesn’t want to play with an NBA backcourt?

Dunphy: Jerome and Matt were such an unusual pair. With both of them getting to the NBA, that’s pretty special. But what I remember most about them is that our big guys seldom, if ever, got into foul trouble because none of the guards we played against had a great opportunity to get by Jerome and Matt and get to the rim.

Trice: They took a lot of pressure off the rest of us.

Baratta: We followed their lead, believing that we could beat anybody.

Jensen: Maloney and Allen were expert passers, unafraid to hit teammates in traffic. And you could see in the game how they were also defenders who didn’t take a play off.

Guthrie: Matt was one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen in my life—and he doesn’t get enough credit for his ball handling or his on-the-ball defense. And Jerome, his ball handling skills were just insane.

Jensen: This game was ’93–96 era Penn hoops at its best, beyond the result—defending all over the place, whether man or zone, and doing all sorts of little things. Nebraska closed to within four in the second half—it’s easy to forget Nebraska had its runs—but then Shawn Trice got inside position for an offensive rebound, which led to a Maloney three. Then Allen hit two more threes. Crisis averted.

The Quakers continued to pour it on with a Krug bucket capping a 9–2 run and putting Penn up 65–51 as the place erupted. James Brown, who had just called it a “terrific offensive show for Penn,” then declared, “Center City Philadelphia closed down early to allow the CPAs and attorneys to come up here and support the squad, and they’re enthusiastic in the crowd at the Nassau Coliseum.”

Two threes from Kegler, one of the top three-point shooters in the nation, extended Penn’s lead to 74–56, and a rare basket from reserve guard Don Moxley W’96 helped ice the game, which wasn’t even as close as the final score might have indicated. Pierce led the way with a game-high 25 points, Allen had 18, Moore 15, and Maloney 12. Remarkably, both Allen and Maloney finished with 10 assists—the only pair of teammates to each register double-digit assists in the same NCAA Tournament game—while Kegler and Krug had nine points apiece off the bench.

Feldman: I’m sitting at center court, and during a timeout James Brown turned to me and said, “Hey, you’re with Penn, right?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I go to Penn.” And he asked, “What do they call downtown?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Do they call it something?” And I said, “Oh, yeah—Center City.” I was able to provide that little nugget, but I guess I didn’t get proper attribution on the broadcast.

Kegler: Krug coming off the bench had some huge plays.

Guthrie: Tim was just a natural-born scorer.

Donahue: Tim Krug was an extremely talented player, and I think teams forgot about him. He was a future first team All-Ivy player.

Kegler: I remember I made a couple of shots and [assistant coach] Fran O’Hanlon said something to me like, “Those were really, really huge shots.” He was always very supportive of me being super confident and aggressive.

Trice: Kegs, he was the best, man. Just a great teammate.

Dunphy: He was very good at finding his shot. And he was probably the glue on that team too, in terms of keeping everyone together.

Jensen: Kegler, Krug, and Moxley all ended up being productive on later Penn teams as they got more minutes, so Penn’s bench was an underrated part of this team. Baratta also contributed in this game.

Moore: Our second five probably could have been starters on another team.

Nat Graham: Dunph’s not a big play-the-bench guy—never was, never will be. But I remember that year, somebody asked Andy Baratta who the second-best team in the Ivy League was and without flinching he goes, “Our second team.”

Guthrie: That quote went all through the Ivy League. It was a funny quote—and probably true.

Baratta: I was an asshole, there’s no question about it. I think I did say something like that. Ah, what the hell? I still stick to that—who’s gonna ever prove me wrong?

Guthrie: There was a joke between us when [assistant coach Gil Jackson] would come down the bench during a game and sit next to me or Don or Nat Graham or Cedric Laster C’96 or Jamie Lyren W’98 and say, “We’re going to get you in this game.” We used to call it the kiss of death because the second he came down, you were not getting in. But for whatever reason, that game Mox got in and hit that baseline jumper and we went crazy.

Fran Dunphy with Steve Donahue after the win (YouTube screenshot).

Fran Dunphy with Steve Donahue after the win (YouTube screenshot).

“Act Like You’ve Been There Before”

Despite the fact that the NCAA Tournament win was Penn’s first since 1980 and the Ivy League’s first since 1984, Dunphy never even cracked a smile toward the end of the game. For the most part, the players followed his lead with a modest celebration.

Krug: There was never a point [Dunphy] was happy with where we were or comfortable.

Kegler: His mantra was: Act like you’ve been there before. We played at New Mexico [in 1992–93] and lost at the end, and one of the players on the other team jumped on the scorer’s table and pumped his fist to the crowd. When we were back home watching the film, Dunphy stopped the tape at that part and said, “Don’t ever do that. If you have a good win, act like you’ve been there before.” That’s what you saw at the end of that game.

Baratta: That mantra is something that sticks with all of us to this day. I say it to my kids and the kids I coach.

Krug: We didn’t feel like we were done. Dunphy was not a celebration kind of guy. We were ready to get back to business.

Donahue: I think we, as his assistants, were probably more excited than he was.

Dunphy: We were composed in the locker room afterwards and set our sights to Florida.

Moore: I think we were all anxious to get to that next game.

Feldman: It was surreal because it was not an upset. We looked like the better team the whole game.

Baratta: Maybe the most remarkable thing about that Nebraska game is how unremarkable it seemed, just because we were so confident we were going to win.

Trice: One of the better things was going back to the hotel and knowing you’ve got to prepare for another game. Being able to watch the other games and knowing you’re still alive, that’s always a good situation to be in.

Kegler: I remember I had this gigantic paper due. I was taking this religious studies class, and I had to write this paper comparing and contrasting the themes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Faust or something like that. It was due the next week and because we won that game, we had to stay, and I remember being very stressed about that.

Feldman: I went back to our hotel room after the game, and I wish I could show you the machines we had back in the day that we would have to plug into the phone, pre-Internet, to transmit our stories. I’m sitting there writing my story and 10 other DP people were there guzzling beers and celebrating in my hotel room.

Riding the longest winning streak in the country at 16 games, the Quakers turned their attention to a Florida team that boasted more of an inside presence with Dametri “Da Meat Hook” Hill and future NBA center Andrew DeClercq, along with high-scoring guards Dan Cross and Craig Brown. Allen scored 23 points but Maloney shot just 2 for 16 from three-point range in a season-ending 70–58 loss to the third-seeded Gators, who went on to the Final Four.

Guthrie: I think we all thought we could go on to the second weekend that year.

Feldman: We started thinking about going to Miami, which was where the Sweet 16 was that year. But the Florida game was a different story.

Dunphy: I remember the Meat Hook.

Baratta: Florida had a guy named Svein Dyrkolbotn. In the pregame scouting report, Dunph deadpans, “He’s the Norwegian Collegian.” To me, it was the funniest thing he ever said.

Trice: They didn’t have many household names. You’re thinking, We can beat those guys. But we found out they were a very good team.

Kegler: We felt like we were right in it. We just had a few things that didn’t go our way.

Krug: I think if you ask every guy on that team, we went into that game expecting to win. And we were in that game from start to finish. It could have gone either way; they just kind of outlasted us. There’s a lot of: What could have been?

Baratta: If we would have just shot the ball a little better, we would’ve beaten Florida.

Moore: There were a lot of upsets in the bracket, so if we had beaten Florida, I think we might have actually made it to the Final Four.

Guthrie: That locker room was one of the most devastated locker rooms I’ve ever been in. In my opinion, the era with Barry was over.

Jensen: If the 1971 Penn team was the best ever, and the ’79 team advanced the farthest, and there were terrific Penn teams after this one, I still don’t think any of them would have had fun playing this group. It took an eventual Final Four team, and a tough shooting game for Maloney, to take them out.

A 1994 NCAA Tournament program and ring given to participants (courtesy of Tim Krug).

A 1994 NCAA Tournament program and watch given to participants (courtesy of Tim Krug).

“What Makes March Madness What It Is”

Although most of the players returned the following season, with transfer Ira Bowman W’96 filling the void left by Pierce, the 1994–95 Quakers (who had upset Michigan and St. John’s earlier in the season) lost an overtime thriller to Antonio McDyess (the No. 2 overall pick in the 1995 draft) and Alabama in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, ending a remarkable three-year run in which the Quakers did not lose any Ivy League games.

Penn won several Ivy championships since then and returned to the Big Dance in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2018—but they never managed to pull off another upset, despite boasting some great teams and drawing a couple of favorable matchups along the way.

Feldman: I hate that I’m still the last DP writer to sit on press row during a Penn win in the tournament. I want that to change. It’s been way too long.

Baratta: Sometimes, I feel like the [1972] Miami Dolphins who are rooting against any team going undefeated. I do like the distinction of being on the team that last won in the NCAA Tournament. But I always root for Penn, and I’m sure it’s going to happen soon enough.

Moore: It does make it sweeter when it’s rarer. But obviously I’d rather have some of the teams win some games.

Scott Graham: Penn had teams good enough to win tournament games but just didn’t get it done. It is surprising there was never another win. A lot of times it comes down to seeding. The same group got royally screwed the next year, getting a 12 seed against Antonio McDyess. And they still almost beat them.

Krug: It’s not an easy thing to accomplish.

Trice: There are a lot of teams that haven’t won. It’s the best of the best. And coming from the Ivy League, you’re going to be a lower seed and play against some very tough teams.

Kegler: We pretty much had the same eight-man rotation for four years, which is very unusual. And we peaked at the right time. And we had a matchup against a team that was a little off maybe. All of that stuff had to come together at the right time for us.

Donahue: The thing people don’t realize is college basketball back then was more competitive, much older, with NBA guys playing as juniors and seniors. For Penn to beat Nebraska, with future pros as seniors, that was a big accomplishment.

Nat Graham: I think there are a lot of teams in our league moving forward, and leagues like ours, that can make runs. I think that will happen more and more—and I think this is a place where it can happen.

Donahue: I probably benefited from this experience when I got to the NCAA Tournament just because I didn’t want to be happy with one win. And I think all of the teams in our league are now capable of making runs, similar to what we did at Cornell [going to the Sweet 16 in 2010].

From a March 2014 reunion. Front row, left to right: Phil Samko, Fran Dunphy, Jamie Lyren, Gil Jackson, Peggy Kowalksi Eric Moore. Back row, left to right: Jerome Allen, Tim Krug, Bill Guthrie, Scott Kegler, Andy Baratta, Shawn Trice (courtesy of Scott Kegler).

From a March 2014 reunion. Front row, left to right: Phil Samko, Fran Dunphy, Jamie Lyren, Gil Jackson, Peggy Kowalski Eric Moore. Back row, left to right: Jerome Allen, Tim Krug, Bill Guthrie, Scott Kegler, Andy Baratta, Shawn Trice (courtesy of Scott Kegler).

Five years ago, many of the players and coaches who live in the Philly area got together in the Palestra locker room to rewatch the game against Nebraska. Thanks to the entire thing being on YouTube, many other Quaker fans have probably watched it a few times too, enjoying one of the great moments in the University’s storied hoops history.

Kegler: It was fun watching it again. It was a little bit like watching game film.

Moore: There’s such a camaraderie when you play sports and when you play on a championship team and when you play on a team that goes to the Dance. It makes it special. A lot of us stay in touch still, and I think that’s part of the reason.

Trice: That group was really tight. Most of us played together for three years. Whenever we get a chance to see each other, it’s great.

Baratta: That bond was forged early in our careers together and remains as strong today as it was then. And winning that game certainly gave us all a lasting memory.

Moore: I went on to play professionally for a couple of years overseas, and I played in England and Jaron Boone, who played for Nebraska, was on my team. And he was still salty and frustrated that he lost that game.

Dunphy: My greatest memory is how terrific the players felt about themselves after that win. I was happy to be along for the ride.

Scott Graham: I don’t know that Fran Dunphy has ever had a team that played the game more the way he wanted to play it than that team.

Phil Samko, longtime trainer: That was the most unselfish team I’ve ever been a part of in 40 years.

Feldman: It was like living in a dream because we had so much confidence in our team. We did not feel like we were getting the respect nationally that we deserved with an 11 seed. And this was a dominant performance, from beginning to end. It was never in doubt.

Donahue: That game is what makes the NCAA Tournament so special. You started to get the vibe that this team, from the Ivy League, with these two great guards, is going to make history. The place started feeling it. It’s erupting on every play. That’s kind of what makes March Madness what it is.

Kegler: That experience of being on that team is something I’ve been missing and longing for in the rest of my life. It’s such a unique experience to trust everyone around you completely.

Dunphy: I often find myself quoting Fred Shero of the Philadelphia Flyers back in the day. His famous quote, before [Game 6 of the 1974] Stanley Cup finals, was “Win today and we walk together forever.” That’s similar to what those guys felt. They won the game and will have a special bond forever and ever.

Baratta: My most vivid memory is walking out onto the floor at Nassau Coliseum and, for the first time in my entire athletic career, appreciating just how special the moment was. I remember looking over and seeing Billy Packer and James Brown, and the crowd was absolutely pro-Penn. I remember thinking in the moment, This is one of the coolest things I’m ever going to do. And I’ve held onto that feeling ever since. Even as I’m describing it, I’m getting chills.  Dave Zeitlin C’03

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    1 Response

    1. david machlowitz

      I remember a former Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court boasting to me about their team before the game; I told him “This isn’t football–want to bet who wins?” It is terrible to read of Allen and Bowman defrauding the university.

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