Penn Quakers

Penn women get No. 12 seed, matchup with Texas A&M in NCAA Tournament

Penn women get No. 12 seed, matchup with Texas A&M in NCAA Tournament

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The giant video board at the Palestra had only just been turned to ESPN when members of the Penn women's basketball team leapt into the air in celebration.

Seeing their school's name flash on the screen early in the NCAA Tournament selection show was certainly a thrill as the Ivy League champion Quakers (22-7) drew a 12-seed and a first-round date with fifth-seeded Texas A&M (22-11) on Saturday (9 p.m./ESPN2).

But perhaps the biggest cheers of all came when players realized that the game will be played at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, after the fourth-seeded and host Bruins face Boise State.

Yup, the Quakers are going to Hollywood.

"L.A.'s my favorite place in the world," star senior center Sydney Stipanovich said from the Palestra floor during the celebration. "We were there earlier this year and we could not be more excited."

Penn made the trip to Southern California around New Year's, beating CSU-Northridge on Dec. 31 and UC-Riverside on Jan. 2 in front of many of the Penn alumni that live in the Los Angeles area.

Head coach Mike McLaughlin is hoping for that same kind of support this weekend.

"There are a lot of Penn alums out there, I know that," he said. "So I'm sure they're excited for us. It's our challenge to figure out how we're gonna get out there at this point with the snowstorm and all that. But we'll worry about that later."

Indeed, the weather might cause some logistical issues as Penn prepares for a cross-country flight. And even though the Quakers flew out there earlier in the season, this kind of travel is not something the program is used to; for their last two NCAA Tournament appearances, they made the short drive to the University of Maryland.

But if this is a daunting challenge, the Quakers aren't showing it.

"I think we're going to be ready," junior forward Michelle Nwokedi said. "No matter what, we're going to be ready."

Nwokedi is a big reason why the Quakers got to this point, winning Ivy League Player of the Year honors after leading Penn in scoring (14.7 ppg), rebounding (9.3 rpg) and blocks (2.8 ppg).

She then was named MVP of the inaugural Ivy League Tournament, which the Quakers won Sunday at the Palestra following a 13-1 league record in the regular season.

And Nwokedi, along with Stipanovich, senior point guard Kasey Chambers and junior guard Anna Ross, played a big role in last year's near-upset of Division I all-time leading scorer Kelsey Plum and Washington in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

"We played well against Washington," McLaughlin said of last year's 65-53 loss in which the Quakers led 13-7 after the first quarter. "A lot of those players were on the floor last year. I think maybe that will take away the beginning jitters. But obviously we're going to be [facing] a quality basketball team."

Indeed, while McLaughlin was happy that Penn earned a 12-seed, the opponent will certainly be a tough one as the perennial powerhouse Aggies are one of only eight programs to have qualified for 12 straight NCAA Tournaments.

But the Ivy champs understand that winning in the NCAA Tournament isn't easy. That's why Penn has never done it before -- something the Quakers hope will change a few short days, and 3,000 miles away.

What would it mean for the program, which has risen to the top of the Ivies with three titles in the last four years, to win its first NCAA tourney game?

"Oh my God, it would mean so much," Stipanovich said. "That's what we're striving for. We're gonna give it our all and hopefully we get the first win for our program."

"I can't even put that into words," McLaughlin added. "I know these guys believe they can win a game. And I think it would be amazing."

Penn football falls to Columbia in OT

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Penn football falls to Columbia in OT

BOX SCORE        

NEW YORK — Josh Wainwright caught 10 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns, including a 24-yarder from Anders Hill in overtime, and Columbia defeated Pennsylvania 34-31 on Saturday for its best start since 1996.

The Lions (5-0, 2-0 Ivy) knocked off the defending Ivy League champions for the first time in 21 tries and snapped an 11-game home skid against the Quakers (2-3, 0-2). The Lions are assured of no worse than a .500 record after winning just five games in its last four seasons.

Penn appeared to be in control after Nick Miller's 25-yard interception return gave the Quakers a 21-7 lead in the third quarter. But the Lions rallied for three TDs in the fourth to take a 28-21 lead. Josh Bean started the Columbia scoring with a 1-yard plunge. Hill hit Wainwright for a 59-yard score to knot the score at 21 and then connected with Rory Schlageter from 7 yards out for the go-ahead score.

The Quakers sent the game to overtime on Will Fischer-Colbrie's 17-yard scoring strike to Justin Watson with 1:21 left. Penn got the ball first in OT, but settled for a 41-yard field goal. The Lions faced a third-and-9 when Hill hooked up with Wainwright for the game-winner.

Hill finished with 258 yards on 21-of-33 passing with three TDs and an interception.

Fischer-Colbrie completed 14 of 25 passes for 186 yards and a score. He threw two interceptions.

Najae Brown's 79-yard interception return helps CCSU beat Penn

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Penn Athletics

Najae Brown's 79-yard interception return helps CCSU beat Penn

BOX SCORE

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. -- Najae Brown returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown and Central Connecticut scored five more on offense to defeat Penn 42-21 on Saturday.

The Blue Devils (3-3) rolled up 473 yards of total offense -- Jake Dolegala passed for 179 yards and scrambled for another 15 and a touchdown. Dolegala also found Drew Jean-Guillaume for a 7-yard touchdown pass before halftime. Central Connecticut rushed for 294 yards on 53 carries and four scores. Jean-Guillame opened the game with a TD run from the 14, Courtney Rush and Cameron Nash had scoring runs of 8 and 1 yards, respectively.

Brown picked off Nick Robinson and returned it 79 yards to give the Blue Devils an early 21-0 lead.

Penn came back on three Robinson touchdown passes -- to Christian Pearson and a pair to Justin Watson to pull within 28-21 with 18 seconds left in the first half. The Quakers (2-2) didn't score after halftime.