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March 16, 2010

25 years ago - March 19, 1985

By: Jimmy Robertson

In the spring of 1984, Doug Waters started the Hokie Huddler, a publication devoted to the coverage of Virginia Tech athletics. The publication has changed names and formats over the course of 25 years, and this year, we want to celebrate the silver anniversary of the publication by taking a look back at what transpired at Virginia Tech in 1984.

This month, we’re looking at the Tech basketball team’s conclusion to the 1984-85 season – one that came to a disappointing end in the NCAA Tournament. Here is what Mr. Waters had to say in the March 19, 1985 issue:

Answers don’t come easy

By Doug Waters

March 19, 1985

What happened?

Here was Virginia Tech, 20-6 and spoiling for a final showdown with Memphis State in the Metro Tournament final.

The Hokies had just whipped Florida State and South Carolina on the road with a terrific display of poise and confidence.

Then, poof! Nothing. Consecutive losses to Cincinnati, FSU, and in the NCAA Tournament, to Temple.

We may never fully figure out why this team ended with an embarrassing collapse, but here are some reasons I’ve come up with:

SHOOTING: The Hokies’ last good shooting game of the year was at South Carolina. They were 30-for-57 for 52.6 percent.

Then they shot 40 percent against Cincinnati, 42.5 percent against Florida State in the Metro Tourney, and 41.4 percent against Temple in the NCAA Tourney.

Even more telling, Tech’s two leading scorers, Perry Young and Dell Curry, hit miserable slumps those final three games.

Young, who had been averaging 18.8 points on 50.6 percent shooting, hit only 17 of his 52 shots over the final three games for 32.7 percent.

Curry, whose outside bombing is crucial to Tech’s success, made only 16 of 46 shots during the three losses for 34.8 percent. He had hit on 48.3 percent of his shots during the season while averaging 18.4 points.

Actually, Curry’s slump began in the second half against South Carolina. After a red-hot first half (9-for-14 and 19 points), he hit only two of his six second-half shots.

Without its two leading scorers to lead the scoring, the Hokies were out of kilter on offense.

Colbert tries to power up for two.

INJURIES: You can’t blame the Cincinnati loss entirely on injuries, because Tech already looked discombobulated before Bobby Beecher went down with an ankle injury and Al Young hurt his knee.

But those two injuries played a key role in the loss to FSU at the Metro Tourney. Beecher’s sore ankle hampered his defense of Alton Lee Gipson, the big FSU center who scored 33 points. He ate Beecher up. And because Young’s knee kept him from playing good one-on-one defense against Seminole point guard Joe Farrar, Farrar was able to dribble deeply into Tech’s defense, setting up easy passes to Gipson.

Against Temple, Beecher said he felt fine, but Young couldn’t play. Without his speed and quickness, Tech was unable to force Temple into a faster-paced game and unable to play the kind of pressure defense that had carried the Hokies all year.

INTANGIBLES: This is the most perplexing category. You would think that this experienced, talented Hokie team that had been denied a trip to the NCAA Tournament the past three seasons would have all the intangibles going for it: desire, enthusiasm, togetherness, poise, etc.

Yet Tech seemed to drag through the Cincinnati game and the Metro Tournament opener, possibly taking each of those teams too lightly, and then when it got to the NCAA, it was caught up in the Perry Young-Tim Lewis missed-practice controversy.

It was bad enough not to have Al Young in the game, but without Perry Young, the team lost still more quickness plus Young’s on-court leadership. When Perry finally got in the game, he didn’t appear to be in the game mentally, and later said as much.

Why did the Hokies hit a shooting slump and an apparent psychological slump at the most crucial point of the season? I have no idea and the players don’t seem to either.

All I can say with certainty is that it’s unfortunate that this fine team, a team that ex-Tech coach Don DeVoe said was the best he had seen at Virginia Tech, ended the year on such a downer.

It’s a most difficult thing to accept and an even more difficult thing to figure out, but perhaps, in recalling this season at a later time, fans and players alike will agree with what Beecher said after the loss to Temple: “Definitely there have been more good memories than bad this year.”


AL FOR MVP: My vote for most valuable player this year is Al Young. He averaged only 8.6 points a game, fifth best on the team, but he led in assists (118) and steals (71), and he was the driving force behind Tech’s pressure defense and its fast break.

His ability to rattle the opposing point guard disrupted other teams’ entire offensive schemes. His speed in bringing the ball up the floor put terrific pressure on opponents’ defenses and revved up the Tech offense.

He was a rare player in that his style was reckless without being helter-skelter, so that he wasn’t one of those players who hurts a team as much as he helps it.

The Temple loss showed rather harshly that, without Al Young in the game, the whole complexion of this Virginia Tech team changed.

REHASHING: How will Perry Young view the Temple game and this past season when he’s had time to think about it?

“I think I’ll always think, ‘What if we had done this, we should have tried that, and so on and so on.’

“This season has been disappointing because we never came up with the big wins all year long.”

Coach Charlie Moir disagreed with Young, saying, “This only thing that disappoints me about this year is the last three games. We were 20-6. And I don’t agree that we didn’t have big wins. We beat West Virginia up there. We won by 20 at Louisville. We were the only team to beat South Carolina at their place. We had what I think is a really good year.”

WILL CURRY JUMP?: Several reporters asked junior Dell Curry after the Temple game whether he would jump to the National Basketball Association next year.

Curry wouldn’t rule out that possibility, but he said, “I think I need one more year of playing experience.”

Curry had a good line about Tech’s trip to the NCAA Tournament, which somehow didn’t seem like a trip into the big time. “It would have been a lot bigger if all the things had not happened on this trip. I’m sure it did not feel like the NCAAs to Perry and Al.”