HIS OFFICIAL Senior Night ceremony won't happen until before Saturday night's game, but Penn big man Darien Nelson-Henry couldn't have picked a better weekend to score his 1,000th career point in a Quakers uniform, his final Ivy League weekend at the Palestra.

And perhaps he couldn't have picked a better game, either.

On display in Penn's 79-67 win over Cornell Friday night was the progress a young team with a first-year head coach has made. But Nelson-Henry's impact as the team's wily, veteran presence was felt on every screen atthe top ofthe key, every switch on the defensive end and every feed into the post.

The 6-11, 265-pound Nelson-Henry, who needed eight points to become the 40th Quakers player in history to score 1,000, scored a team-best 16 points and pulled in a game-high 10 rebounds on the night.

His 1,000th and 1,001st points came in typical Nelson-Henry fashion. Early in the second half, after accepting a pass in the post, Nelson-Henry turned to the hoop and let a hook shot go. It didn't fall, but Nelson-Henry followed his miss and put in the rebound to put the Quakers up 44-33 with 15:30 to play.

"I couldn't be happier," Nelson-Henry said. "My parents are here. I'm doing it with some of my best friends and a great coaching staff. It's my last weekend at home so it feels good to make it into the category of a lot of great players that have come through here."

The Kirkland, Wash., native, who leads Penn in points and rebounds on the year, is one of just two seniors on the Penn roster. Penn started the year with 73.3 percent of its roster as underclassmen, a number that tied for eighth nationally.

The Quakers, (11-13, 5-5 Ivy League), who won Friday for the fifth time in seven games, went through a coaching change from Jerome Allen to Steve Donahue. They lost a member of Nelson-Henry's class and their leading scorer from the last two seasons, Tony Hicks, just a few weeks before the season began when
Hicks - a 1,000-point scorer by his junior year - decided to leave the program.

At the very least, Nelson-Henry, along with fellow senior Jamal Lewis, helps represent the changing of the guard at Penn.

"They're great kids . . . not kids, men," Nelson-Henry said. "They're great men. They're easy to lead. I don't have a lot of experience leading in the past and they make it really easy on me. They work hard every day and they listen to instruction. They know that, in my heart, I just want them to be better players and I want to leave this program and set it in the right direction.

"I know that. They know that. My coaching staff knows that."

They sure do.

"It's been huge," Donahue said of Nelson-Henry's leadership. "For a lot of reasons, on and off the court. Even tactically, to be able to go into a kid like that at the low post and the elbow and take a lot of pressure off the guards.

"We've been very fortunate to play through Darien in a lot of ways. I think it's on the offensive end where we'd probably struggle a whole lot if we didn't have the ability to just go through him quite often."

The Quakers did that in Friday's game.

The Big Red (9-16, 2-9) cut the Penn lead to six, 50-44, for the first time since it was 6-0, with just under 12 minutes to play, but Nelson-Henry responded with a momentum-stopping three-point play.

Later, a 7-0 Cornell run got the Big Red to within five, 59-54, but Nelson-Henry sent a cross-court pass from the post to the far corner to an open Jake Silpe for a three-pointer.

The Penn lead, which was 32-22 at halftime after scoring the game's first 12 points, was never less than six the rest of the way, even with Nelson-Henry forced to the bench for a few minutes with four fouls and 5:51 to play.

The future (and present) of the program - led by guards Jackson Donahue (13 points),Darnell Foreman (13) and Silpe (12) and swingman Sam Jones (15) - made sure of that.

And in Nelson-Henry's first possession back in the game after a brief, two-minute spurt on the bench, he slammed home an emphatic, two-handed slam to put the Quakers back in control for good before fouling out less than a minute later with 2:20 on the clock.

He was given a nice round of applause as he took his seat.

The Palestra faithful can officially say thanks for one last time Saturday night.