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Drexel's epic comeback breaks record set by Dick Groat's Duke team

Jerry DiPaola
| Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, 7:54 p.m.
Dick Groat, guard on the Duke University men's basketball team, class of 1952.
Dick Groat, guard on the Duke University men's basketball team, class of 1952.

Contacted Friday morning, Dick Groat didn't know one of his records had been erased from the NCAA basketball record books the night before.

These days, he's more concerned with two other teams, Pitt, for which he offers analysis on the radio, and Franklin Regional, coached by his grandson, Steve Scorpion.

But Groat was excited to learn Drexel set an NCAA Division I record Thursday night, rallying from a 34-point deficit to defeat Delaware, 85-83.

He was excited because it gave him a chance to reminisce.

Prior to that, the largest deficit overcome to win a game was 32 points on Dec. 30, 1950, when Groat scored 32 points to lead Duke over Tulane, 74-72.

"Everything we did was right, and everything they did was wrong," said Groat, recalling the consolation game of the Dixie Classic in Raleigh, N.C.

"We played solid defense, and we just kept scoring and scoring and the momentum picked up, and we got better and better."

Over these past 68 years, Groat, 87, remembers distinctly Duke coach Hal Bradley's halftime speech.

"He said, 'As badly as you played in the first half, I don't know if you have any chance to win. But let's go out there and don't embarrass ourselves.'

"What else was he going to say as badly as we were playing?"

Still down 20 with 11 minutes to play, Duke scored the game's final 22 points to win on a basket by big man Dayton Allen with 10 seconds left.

Later in life, when Groat was playing shortstop for the Pirates, he became especially familiar with rallies. The 1960 Pirates were famous for their stirring comebacks on their way to a World Series title.

"(Manager) Danny Murtaugh always said," Groat recalled, " 'No use coming to see a ball game before the seventh inning the way you guys are playing.' "

Drexel coach Zach Spiker's halftime speech was a bit more analytical and detailed than what Bradley told his team.

Drexel assistant coach Justin Jennings, who played at Seneca Valley and Penn State Behrend, said Spiker had an appropriate message.

"You could easily lose your mind on the team because of the poor performance," Jennings said of the 56-29 deficit that had been 53-19 with 2:36 left in the half. "But he kept calm and told them we have to just come out and represent what Drexel is right now and what it's going to become. Our guys bought into that."

Knowing the loser would fall into last place in the Colonial Athletic Association, Spiker told his players to cut the second half into five segments, divided by timeouts, and try to win each one. They won four and tied one. Drexel won when Tramaine Isabell hit two foul shots with 2.2 seconds left.

"We got a couple of turnovers, and guys just started believing," Jennings said.

Overall, Drexel had nine steals and something Groat didn't have in 1950: 10 3-pointers.

The Drexel press was the key, however. After one steal in the backcourt, Jennings said a Drexel player, who was protecting the rim, ran the length of the court to set a screen.

That's the kind of hustle Groat appreciates.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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