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Humble Hennon reflects on prolific night

By John Grupp
Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007
 

Fifty years ago Friday, Don Hennon scored 45 points to set a Pitt record that stands today.

Hennon's opponent in the 87-84 double-overtime victory• Duke.

The No. 11 Panthers will play the No. 6 Blue Devils again, at 7 tonight at Madison Square Garden, on the eve of the 50-year anniversary of the most prolific scoring game in Pitt basketball history.

"It doesn't seem like that long ago," said Hennon, 70, a retired surgeon from Franklin Park. "It's really been 50 years• That's totally amazing."

Hennon, a two-time All-American, attempted 42 shots and made 20, marks that still exist in the Pitt record books.

While today's game is the first meeting between the national powers in nearly three decades, Pitt played Duke five times in a six-year span from 1954-59.

The Blue Devils had won the previous three meetings, before Hennon, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, posted his record-breaking game Dec. 21, 1957 at the Field House.


The Golden Game
Friday marks the 50-year anniversary of Don Hennon's record 45-point game against Duke. He was 20 of 42 from the floor and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line.
Category Total Pitt ranking
Points 45 1st
Field goals made 20 1st
Field goals attempted 42 1st

His 45 points remains the second-highest scoring game by a Duke opponent in 103 years -- more than Lew Alcindor or Michael Jordan or Ralph Sampson ever scored. No Duke opponent has ever surpassed Hennon's 20 field goals made.

Hennon's feat is even more remarkable considering it came during an age when there was no 3-point line, no one-and-one bonus and no shot clock.

Whether it was long-distance bombs or his running jump hook, the kid from Wampum dazzled Duke. The Blue Devils would upset Jerry West's then-No. 1 West Virginia one month later, win the ACC regular-season title and finish No. 10 in the final national poll.

"It was a really good game," Hennon said. "They had recruited me a lot coming out of high school. I had a lot of incentive to play a little harder."

Bill Shay, a sophomore guard on the 1957-58 Pitt team, said a half-century later that he still vividly recalls the Saturday afternoon televised game.

"They did everything they could to stop him," Shay said. "He was just unstoppable. ... I thought he should have shot more in the game. When I was in there, what I did was try to get out of his way."

The Blue Devils used a zone against Hennon, who was among the nation's leading scorers at the time. They went with man-on-man. When efforts failed in the first half, they put a quick sophomore guard from Philadelphia, Marty Joyce, on him, "in desperation."

"We couldn't touch him," said Jim Newcome of Spartanburg, S.C., a senior center for Duke in 1957. "We tried everything, but nothing worked. After the game, our little guard (Joyce) said to our coach, 'I would have fouled him, but I couldn't catch him.' Hennon was a great player."

Hennon is the No. 4 all-time leading scorer at Pitt with 1,841 points, despite playing at a time when freshmen were ineligible. His career average of 24.2 points per game remains the best in Pitt history.

Hennon, whose No. 10 jersey was retired in 1968, was a sixth-round pick in the NBA, but the undersized guard turned down pro basketball to study medicine.

He still attends every Pitt home game and served as an honorary coach, along with John Calipari, at the Pitt alumni game at Petersen Events Center last month. He is surprised his single-game scoring mark remains intact.

"Most records don't stand for 50 years," he said, "Especially in basketball now."

Shay, the men's basketball coach at CCAC-Allegheny for the past 39 years, said Hennon's records should be even more unapproachable.

"If the rules today were the same back then," Shay said, "Don would have dwarfed any scoring record anybody ever had."

 

 
 


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