Woodrow S. Sponaugle, in his fourth year as head basketball coach at Franklin & Marshall College, led the 1951–52 men’s basketball team to its best season in the history of the College, with the help of an amazing five future Hall of Fame members: Walt Lenz, Norm Plitt, Gus Lovett, Kenneth Davis and Henry Eberle.
The 1951–52 men’s basketball team went 16-3, set the national collegiate scoring record by averaging 83.4 points per game, scored more than 100 points in three games, and secured a memorable win against the U.S. Naval Academy, pulling off the surprising upset over a highly-touted squad that featured numerous All-Americans in their lineup. The team also boasted a squad that was remarkably tall for the era, with a 6'4" average per man.
Team member Dick Dunn broke two records that season. By averaging 21.1 points per game to score 400 for the year, he topped the 352 record set by Lenz the previous year. Dunn was also selected as an honorable mention on the All-Pennsylvania State team, along with teammate Lenz.
Lovett, a 6'8" center, was selected to the All-State second team. He tallied 360 points, but he was even more impressive on the boards. He was at the top of the national leader board along with veteran Lenz in rebounds. Lovett averaged 14.7 per game, while Lenz averaged 11.7.
F&M had a tough 2-2 start that year, followed by seven straight wins. Then the team made the highly anticipated trip to the U.S. Naval Academy and downed the highly regarded Middies, 79-76, in the most thrilling game of the season. Navy’s John Clune was on fire and scored 23 points by intermission. After being down 10 points at halftime, 41-31, the Diplomats closed the gap to 63-58 at the end of the third period. F&M started to roll in the fourth with Lenz’s tap-in, Plitt’s ball stealing, Jack Sippel’s jump shot and Dunn’s lay-up, giving the Diplomats the lead at 76-75. F&M kept up the pace and secured the victory, 79-76.
Three games later, the Diplomats hit a season-high 43 field goals when they downed Bucknell 103-86, and took down Drexel 91-85 two games later.
The Diplomats improved to 15-3 and closed out their epic year with a victory over Drexel Tech 91-85 in an overtime
tilt, with Dunn scoring 41, and a win
F&M invaded Gettysburg to take on the Bullets for the last game of the 1951–52 season. The Diplomats won 76-68 to pick up their first victory over the Bullets in 10 years. Dunn poured in 17, the exact number he needed to total an even 400 points for the season, while Lovett also hit for 17 to score 362 points for the season.
F&M finished the year with 1,586 points in 19 contests, 759 rebounds, and 303 assists, the finest in F&M history to date.
The team was captained by Jack Sippel and included Dick Dunn, Carson “Gus” Lovett, Walt Lenz, Henry Eberle, Kenneth Davis, Norm Plitt, Carl Yoder and Charles Trentalange. The managers were Herbert Hopwood and Paul Weinstein.