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February 9, 2011

Feb. 4, 1986 - No more unbeatens; Hokies edge Memphis State

By: Jimmy Robertson

By Chris Colston

(Reprinted from Vol. 3, No. 22 edition of the Hokie Huddler)

Feb. 4, 1986

In a school year when Virginia Tech defeated arch-rival Virginia by 18 points in both basketball and football, there was no way the Hokies were going to let the Wahoos upstage them.

Thursday night, Virginia pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year by beating undefeated and top-ranked North Carolina by 13 points.

But Saturday, it was Tech’s turn. By edging second-ranked Memphis State 76-72, the Hokies became the second state school in three days to defeat an unbeaten ball club. Now there are none.

Rebounding, the shooting of Dell Curry and the return of center Roy Brow gave 16th-ranked Tech (18-4, 4-2) its best win of the Curry-Colbert-Beecher era. The general consensus in the postgame locker room gave this game the edge over Tech’s 1983 win over MSU, when the Tigers were ranked No. 1.

“They were both great, but this time was better because we got a measure of revenge,” Curry said.

Keith Colbert agreed, but for a different reason. “We didn’t go to the NCAA’s that year. We’re having a better season now and we’re trying to win the Metro championship,” he said. “This one was more important.”

It was also a confidence booster. The Hokies suffered their worst defeat in 10 years last Monday in Memphis, getting blasted 83-61. A fullcourt press led by Andre Turner caused 22 turnovers and had Tech rattled.

“They handled our press much better today,” Tigers coach Dana Kirk said, and senior forward Bobby Beecher attributed the success to more aggressiveness. “We rammed the ball down their throats,” he said. “We weren’t tentative. Once we got the ball past midcourt, we got some easy buckets.”

Johnny Fort, who had only two turnovers in 27 minutes, said the key was patience. “We just concentrated on getting the ball in the middle and taking our time,” he said. “I told the guys just to get the ball to me.”

Although Tech had three more giveaways than MSU, the Hokies more than made up for that on the boards. Curry, Colbert and Beecher alone out-rebounded the whole Tiger team, and the Hokie forwards combined for 10 offensive rebounds. “They had too many second shots,” Kirk said. “Our inability to rebound really hurt us.”

Tech’s 42-31 advantage marked the first time in six games they’ve out-rebounded a Metro opponent. “I just used my quickness to get position,” said Colbert, who had 11 rebounds.

“Keith was over the square (of the backboard) on a couple of those,” Tech coach Charlie Moir said.

Beecher had a game-high 13 rebounds, while Curry had his second straight nine-rebound outing. It was his second straight 28-point outing, too.

“Curry hit shots we normally let people take,” Kirk said. “And he makes them with ease.”

Tech center Dave Burgess had a feeling Curry would have a big game. “Memphis made a mistake by talking about Dell in the papers,” he said Thursday night. “I think he’ll come back strong. Dell could have his best game of the year. He might get 45 points.”

As it turned out, 10 for 19 field-goal shooting and 8 of 10 free throws were enough. “I didn’t think (Dwight) Boyd had to talk about me like he did in the newspaper,” Curry said. “It really made me bear down and show them what kind of player I was.”

Curry was referring to some of the comments taped to the walls in the Hokie locker room. Boyd had said Curry was “lazy,” and that was just one of the articles Moir and Co. used to motivate their squad. Newspaper clippings from Tech’s 1983 win over the Tigers filled the walls. A recent clipping of a USA Today feature describing Andre Turner’s play vs. Tech last Monday was highlighted in yellow magic marker.

Tech even broke out their orange outfits, which the Hokies don’t often wear for home games.

“They’re our big-game uniforms,” Colbert said. “We save them for special occasions.”

“It was a great win for our program,” Moir said. “We’ve got two tough games with Louisville coming up, but we’re right in the race. If we’d have won at Cincinnati, in fact, we’d be tied for first place in the conference.

“I’m still losing sleep over that one.”

Saturday night, however, the only lost sleep in Blacksburg was due to excess celebration.