Once it was Penn, rather than Villanova, who dominated the Big Five and was a fixture in the rankings.
But even one of its most famous alums concedes those days are over for the Quakers.UPenngave the Wildcats all they could handle for 32 minutes Saturday night in a sold-out Palestra barnburner. But the Wildcats prevailed 62-47 for their11thstraight Big Five win and fourth consecutive City title.
"We’ve dropped off significantly below the rest of the Big Five," said former Philadelphia Mayor and Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell. " I think it can be fixed, because we have four freshman who should be pretty good basketball players. But will we ever be a Final Four team again or own the Big Five? Probably not."
T imes have changed and now some suggest, after going 21-51 since 2012, Jerome Allen’s job should be on the line. Perhaps not if they can bottle Saturday night’s effort and energy, where they never backed down against the Wildcats and had the raucous Palestra crowd thinking upset.
"I’m from North Philly," said Allen, Penn’s No. 9 career leading scorer. "We never looked at the number in front of the scoreboard. We were playing Villanova and whether they were No 5 or No. 50 doesn’t really make a difference. At the end of the day we prepare to win the game and if we’d been able to hold onto our defensive principles the full 40 minute we had a chance."
Instead, those hopes died when ‘Nova continued to pound it inside to 6-foot-11 Daniel Ochefu, who finished with a career high 21 points and 10 rebounds. That wrapped up the Big Five title for the Cats who beat Temple, Saint Joseph’s, LaSalle and Penn by a combined 80 points.
"We needed this, a tough game on the road," Wright said. "We responded well. ButI definitely don't think we own the city. I know we don't own the city.’’
Allen just wants the Penn to be part of the conversation.
"As far as them dominating the city, that stings a bit," said Allen, who’ll get a final crack at a Big Five win Saturday vs. Phil Martelli’s Hawks. "I’m from the city. The numbers don’t lie, but our entire city has fared well the last couple of years in terms of the national spotlight.So we’ll continue to plug away and get better so that someday we as the University of Pennsylvania are not sitting here talking .about another team dominating us. That’s something we won’t stand for.’’
For now, though, that’s reality, as the Quakers gear up for the Ivy season trying to build on what might’ve been Saturday. Ah, those were the days, Ed Rendell and Phillies’ president David Montgomery, who sat together, must’ve been thinking Saturday night.
It’s fair to wonder, though, if it will ever be that way for Penn again.