Steve Donahue, a 1984 Ursinus graduate, wanted Saturday afternoon at the Palestra to be an experience for the current players from his alma mater, a life memory of what it felt like to play in one of America's iconic venues.
It was probably not part of the equation for the Penn coach that a 1-4 Division III team would badly outplay his team in the first half, lead by seven early, and then hit a three just before the intermission buzzer to get a dead heat after 20 minutes.
The Bears likely will remember that first half much longer than the second, when the Quakers finally took control of a game they eventually won, 73-66. It was 36-36 after the first 20 minutes as the Bears shot 58.3 percent. The Quakers (5-5) committed 10 turnovers.
"These kids think they are going to walk in here and win by 40," Donahue said. "We're not that team."
They were not, but Ursinus had something to do with it.
"I obviously thought Ursinus played really well, in particular in the first half, really put us on our heels," Donahue said.
After Penn scored the first 10 second-half points, the game turned its way, and Donahue did not have to wonder why exactly he wanted to make this day happen for the school where he was the basketball captain 32 years ago.
"Seven straight stops to start the second half," Donahue said. "We're a young basketball team, and the mental challenge of playing a Division III team, [we] obviously did not understand their capabilities. I have a unique perspective in that I was one of those players, and I understand how locked in you are to play in this arena against this team."
Ursinus coach Kevin Small got his team to the Palestra an hour early for the game with Penn so it could wander the concourses.
"It was a great opportunity, coming down here," Small said afterward. "I knew the majesty of the Palestra. You can feel it."
Matt Knowles, who has been playing through a sprained ankle, had a career-high 26 points for Ursinus. Matt Howard (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Sam Jones (19 points, 10 rebounds) each had a double-double for Penn.
"This is one you really circle on your schedule," said Knowles, who saw his first Palestra game as a second grader.