UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Ivy League doesn't get much respect in the NCAA tournament, but Pennsylvania may have changed that for this season.
The No. 11 seed Quakers blitzed No. 6 seed Nebraska for a 15-4 lead at the start and never trailed en route to an 90-80 upset victory last night in the East Regional at Nassau Coliseum.
It was the first Ivy League win in the tournament since Princeton beat Oklahoma State in a play-in game 11 years ago.
Penn (25-2) had the best winning percentage when the 64-team field was assembled, but also carried the Ivy League stigma -- smart, gritty and determined, but not talented enough to win.
"I think the same thing will come up Saturday," Quakers guard Jerome Allen said. "But we got the monkey off our back for one night. You [the media] might be surprised with what happened, but we're not."
The victory was the 16th in a row for the Quakers, whose only losses have been at Ohio State (83-80) and at Temple (76-65).
Nebraska coach Danny Nee had no doubts that Penn has a "quality team that is fundamentally sound. No ifs, ands or buts about it, they can play."
Fluctuations and variations in the Penn defenses flustered the Cornhuskers, who entered the tournament on a roll after winning the Big Eight Conference tournament for the first time.
There was a serious run at the Quakers early in the second half when Nebraska chopped a 15-point deficit to 50-44, but Matt Maloney made a three-pointer, Allen made two more and Penn went on an 18-9 binge.
Nebraska (20-10) went 3-for-20 from three-point range; Penn was 11 for 27.
Florida 64, James Madison 62
The return of Lefty Driesell to the NCAA tournament ended in defeat last night, but not in disgrace.
Driesell's No. 14 seed James Madison team gave No. 3 seed Florida a dogfight to the wire before losing a heartbreaking decision.
James Madison (20-10) had a chance to tie or win with 7.2 seconds remaining, but, while pushing up-court, guard Dennis Leonard dribbled the ball off a Florida player's foot at midcourt, and the Dukes didn't get off a shot.
Dan Cross scored the winning bucket for Florida (26-7), driving to a layup just before the Dukes' mishap because, "I thought it would be better if I finished rather than look to make a pass."
In his first NCAA game since a Maryland loss to Nevada-Las Vegasin 1986, Driesell played a pressing defense and a slowdown offense in the first half that baffled Florida.
The Gators went scoreless for 7:14 while the Dukes turned an 11-8 deficit into a 20-11 lead.
"Our defense was superb. We stuck it to them in the first half," Driesell said. "But Florida is a good ballclub, and they answered the challenge."
The Gators stepped up the tempo early in the second half. They forgedinto leads as high as seven points several times before Kent Culuko converted a four-point play to keep James Madison alive at 3:27.
Clayton Ritter (27 points in 25 minutes) scored the last six JMU points to provide a 62-62 tie before two Florida timeouts set up Cross' drive to the game-winner and the Dukes' last-second turnover.
Geo. Wash. 51, Ala.-Birm. 46
Two days ago, George Washington was feeling relieved about simply being invited to the NCAA tournament. Now, the Colonials are feeling even better about staying.
Yesterday, in the second half, GW squandered a 13-point lead within nine minutes, then recovered to eliminate Alabama-Birmingham.
The "bubble" team didn't quite burst, advancing to tomorrow's second round against No. 2 seed Connecticut.
"We're here, and we're going to try to make the most out of it," said Colonials guard Kwame Evans, from Southern High.
Alabama-Birmingham (22-8) rallied from a 41-29 deficit to tie at 43 despite shooting 28.6 percent in the second half (27.4 for the game).
Yinka Dare regained the lead for GW with a free throw, but a follow shot by Vaughn Jones provided a 48-45 lead and really put the heat on.
The Blazers continued to have the same problem -- a falling out with the basket. That didn't stop top scorer Robert Shannon, who went 6-for-24.
He missed a three-point attempt, and then Clarence Thrash went 0-for-2 at the free-throw line to seal the Blazers' fate in the final minute.
George Washington (18-11) was no ball of fire shooting the ball, either (27.3 in the second half), but survived on grit, the presence of Dare and general defensive play.
"We felt we would do something if we were fortunate enough to be blessed with the opportunity," coach Mike Jarvis said. "Luckily, we didn't have to learn the hard way what one more victory would have meant."
Connecticut 64, Rider 46
Rider tossed a semi-scare at the second seed by playing to a 29-29 halftime tie, but in the long run, the Huskies had too much height, depth and seasoning.
"I think our team was a little uptight, scared to lose," said Connecticut All-America Donyell Marshall, who scored 13 second-half points. "Instead of just playing loose, we were a little nervous."
Rider (21-9) was well prepared by coach Kevin Bannon, using the clock on offense, spreading the floor to offset Connecticut's size advantage and shooting 48 percent before halftime.
Consecutive baskets by Marshall off a drive and a tip-in and two free throws by Doron Sheffer broke open a close game with 10:01 left, and from there Connecticut progressed routinely to its 28th victory.