Quieting the Weary Ghosts of Cassell

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Thursday night, in the wild minutes after Virginia Tech’s historic 67-65 victory over Duke, I stood in the stands and watched the students celebrate, packing the floor with the Hokie players and cheerleaders. My eyes roamed to the rafters, where ACC banners now hang, and for a moment, I thought I saw ghosts. And as I watched, they slowly faded away.

The Hokies celebrate their 1986 win over #2 Memphis State, 76-72.

Had I really seen them? I continued to stare into the rafters of 44-year old Cassell Coliseum, and though the vision didn’t return, I decided that yes, I had seen something. I had seen the smiling faces of basketball players from years past, fists raised in triumph, celebrating a victory that had occurred over 19 years ago … and until last night, a victory that haunted the Virginia Tech program that struggles mightily at times to measure up to its past.

The ghosts wore #30, #44, and #31, and on February 1st, 1986, they and their Virginia Tech teammates recorded a win over #2 Memphis State, a Tiger team sitting at 20-0 and poised to take over the top spot in the polls, thanks to a UVa victory over #1 North Carolina just two days prior. Memphis State had destroyed the Hokies 83-61 in Memphis two games earlier, but in the rematch, the Hokies triumphed 76-72 in front of a frenzied crowd of 10,000 in Cassell Coliseum.

They did it behind 28 points from Dell Curry (#30), 10 points and 13 rebounds from Bobby Beecher (#44), and 16 points and 11 rebounds from Keith Colbert (#31). And though the Hokies had beaten Memphis State in 1983 when the Tigers were ranked #1, the Tech players to a man said