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Men's Basketball Prepares for Massachusetts

Minutemen host Hokies in Atlantic 10 opener.


Dec. 31, 1998

Virginia Tech (5-4) vs. Massachusetts (3-6)
January 2, 1999; 2 p.m.
Mullins Center (9,493); Amherst, Mass.
UMass leads series 3-2
Minutemen have won the last two meetings
Hokies are 2-1 in Atlantic 10 openers
Tech plays seven of next 10 on the road

Virginia Tech (5-4)
        F       -       22      Andr Ray (6-4, 218, r-Jr.)
        F       -        4      Rolan Roberts (6-6, 237, So.)
        C       -       31      Russ Wheeler (6-8, 253, Jr.)
        G       -       55      Eddie Lucas (6-6, 200, r-Sr.)
        G       -       15      Brendan Dunlop (6-2, 185, Jr.)

Massachusetts (3-6) F - 22 Chris Kirkland (6-6, 206, Jr.) F - 23 Mike Babul (6-6, 204, Jr.) C - 4 Lari Ketner (6-10, 268, Sr.) G - 3 Charlton Clarke (6-3, 215, Sr.) G - 5 Monty Mack (6-3, 193, Jr.)

The Officials Referee - Ken Clark Umpire - Rich San Fillipo Umpire - Joe DeMayo


THE SERIES

*This will be the sixth basketball meeting between the men's teams of Virginia Tech and UMass. UMass leads the series, 3-2. The Minutemen won the last meeting, 64-58, in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament last season. UMass also won the regular season game last year, 68-59, in Blacksburg. The biggest game took place at Cassell Coliseum in 1995-96 when UMass was ranked No. 1 and Tech was 10th in the national polls.

All-American Marcus Camby had an unbelievable game with 31 points and 10 rebounds as the Minutemen won, 74-58. Tech gained revenge at UMass a year later with a 63-47 triumph as Ace Custis made four 3-point baskets. The first game in the series was played at Tech in 1965, long before the teams became conference rivals, with the Hokies taking a 91-88 decision.


TECH-UMASS ON TV

*Saturday's game will be televised by the A-10 Television Network with Mike Gorman handling the play-by-play and Ed Stefanski serving as the color analyst. Networks carrying the game are the Madison Square Garden Network, FoxSports New England, WBGN in Pittsburgh, FoxSports Ohio, WDRL in Roanoke and ESPN Full Court (DirecTV and PrimeStar).


TECH IN ATLANTIC 10 OPENERS

*Virginia Tech is 2-1 in Atlantic 10 opening games since joining the league in 1995-96. The Hokies made their debut in the A-10 Conference with an 88-69 victory at Duquesne on Jan. 10, 1996. In the 1996-97 opening game, Tech defeated St. Bonaventure, 92-80, at home. In last season's A-10 opener, the Hokies dropped a 72-65 decision at Duquesne.


THIS SEASON

*Tech is 5-4 in its second season under head coach Bobby Hussey. The Hokies got off on a winning track in their season opener with a 59-50 home victory over William & Mary. Tech suffered its first loss of the season in its next game when East Tennessee State downed Tech, 57-48, at home.

The Hokies captured their second win of the season with an 85-51 victory at Liberty. Coach Hussey recorded his 300th career victory when the Hokies recorded an 83-76 overtime victory over UNC Asheville at Cassell Coliseum. Tech then dropped its next three contests, losing at UNC Charlotte (62-57), falling at home to Wake Forest (52-47) and losing at West Virginia (69-68).

The Hokies snapped their three-game losing skid with an 85-65 win over Coastal Carolina. Tech closed out 1998 with a 62-55 win over Winthrop last Wednesday.

*Massachusetts is 3-6 this season after dropping a 75-66 overtime decision to Davidson at home last Tuesday. The Minutemen won their opener against Niagara before dropping their next four games against St. John's, College of Charleston, Marshall and UConn. UMass also owns wins against Boston College and Detroit and has suffered a loss against Villanova.


VIRGINIA TECH COACH BOBBY HUSSEY

*Bobby Hussey (Appalachian State '62), long regarded as one of college basketball's top strategists, is in his second season as head coach of the Hokies. Hussey, who served as Bill Foster's top assistant for six seasons at Tech, took over the Hokies' coaching duties on the day following Tech's last game of the 1996-97 season.

A former head coach at Belmont Abbey and Davidson College, Hussey is starting his 28th year as a basketball coach, including 19 years as a head coach. He has been a winner at every stop. In 10 seasons as the head coach at Belmont Abbey, Hussey's teams posted a 179-111 record, winning 20 or more games each of his last four seasons on the job.

Between 1981 and 1989, Hussey guided Davidson to 108 wins, one NCAA Tournament appearance and a pair of 20-win seasons. He had winning seasons three of his last four years there. Before joining Foster at Virginia Tech, Hussey spent two years as an assistant at Clemson. His overall record as a collegiate head coach is 302-259.


HUSSEY HITS MAGICAL MILESTONE

*Coach Bobby Hussey reached a milestone in his long coaching career on Dec. 1 when he recorded his 300th coaching victory. The win came against UNC Asheville, 83-76, at Cassell Coliseum. In 20-plus seasons as a head coach, Hussey is ranked 52nd in victories among Division I coaches with 302 victories.


MASSACHUSETTS COACH BRUISER FLINT

*Bruiser Flint (St. Joseph's '87) is in his third season as the head coach at UMass. In his first season at UMass, Flint guided the Minutemen to a 19-14 overall record and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Last year's squad posted a 21-11 record and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the eighth consecutive year. Flint was an assistant at UMass under John Calipari and took over when Calipari resigned to coach the New Jersey Nets. Flint attended St. Joseph's and was a four-year starter for the Hawks. His overall record at UMass is 43-31.


TECH IN THE ATLANTIC 10

*Virginia Tech is beginning its fourth season as a member of the Atlantic 10 after spending 17 seasons in the Metro Conference. The Hokies posted a 13-3 A-10 mark in 1995-96 and won the league's West Division regular-season championship. In 1996-97, Tech finished third in the West with a league mark of 7-9 and finished tied for fourth in the West with a conference record of 5-11 last season.


ATLANTIC 10 PICKS

*Sophomore forward Rolan Roberts was named All-Atlantic 10 preseason third team at the conference's media day in Philadelphia. The coaches slated the Hokies for a fourth-place finish in the A-10 West Division, behind Xavier, GW and Dayton but ahead of La Salle and Duquesne. Temple was tabbed to win the A-10 East.


TECH VS. TEAMS FROM MASSACHUSETTS

*Tech is 3-3 in games against teams from Massachusetts. The Hokies beat Boston College, 75-70, en route to the Gator Bowl Tournament championship in 1981. Tech is 2-3 against UMass with one win in Blacksburg and one in Amherst.


ROAD WARRIORS

*Fifty-four of Tech's last 94 games have been played away from Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies are 15-19 in games played on opponents' courts during that stretch and 9-11 in games on neutral courts. At one point during that stretch in the 1995-96 campaign, Tech accomplished something no other Hokie team has done when it won six straight road games that were played consecutively.


TECH'S LAST GAME

*Rolan Roberts had 10 points, including four in a critical second-half run, as Virginia Tech held off Winthrop, 62-55, Wednesday at Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies led 30-27 at intermission, then opened the second half with a 10-5 run and charged to a 42-32 lead - the biggest of the game - with 14:17 left. Winthrop started hitting from long range and cut the lead to 44-43 with 10:10 left.

After Brendan Dunlop scored on a layup, Roberts took charge, scoring on a dunk and a jumper as the Hokies pushed their lead to 50-43 with 6:58 left. The Eagles were never able to close as the Hokies made 3-of-5 free throws in the final 30 seconds. Eddie Lucas led the Hokies with 18 points, while Dunlop added 12 points and Dennis Mims had 10 points.


A CLOSER LOOK

*Brendan Dunlop (Bronx, N.Y.) had a career-high eight assists against Winthrop. He did not commit a turnover and had 12 points.

*Rolan Roberts, Eddie Lucas, Brendan Dunlop and Dennis Mims each scored double figures for the second consecutive game.

*Tech's 10 blocked shots matched a season high set against William & Mary in the first game of the season. The Hokies have 63 blocked shots for the year, an average of 7.0 per game.

*The Hokies had a season-low 29 rebounds against Winthrop. That was the lowest total of rebounds for Tech since the St. Bonaventure game last season when the Hokies grabbed 27 boards.


LONG RANGE BOMBERS

*Since the three-point rule took effect prior to the 1986-87 season, Virginia Tech has made a three-point basket in all but two contests. The Hokies' three-point streak of 277 games ended during the 1995-96 season against GW. Tech then started a new streak that lasted 69 games before the Dayton game last season. Tech has now made three-pointers in the last 13 games played since the Dayton contest.


DEFENSE DELUXE

*During Tech's last 215 games, opposing teams have shot 50 percent or better against the Hokies just 31 times. During that same span, Tech has held its foes to a shooting percentage of less than 40 percent 88 times. Tech held all of its opponents under 50 percent last season, and 10 under 40 percent. This season, Tech opponents are shooting 38.8 percent from the field.


LAST YEAR'S GAMES AGAINST UMASS

*UMass held off a furious drive by Virginia Tech in the last five minutes and defeated the Hokies, 68-59, in a game at Cassell Coliseum. A crowd of 7,811 saw Tech drop its fifth straight game. Using a stifling defense, UMass built a 27-18 first half lead and stretched the advantage to 20 at 55-35 with little more than five minutes left. Then Tech spurted and closed the gap to eight at 65-57 with just 23 seconds left. Tyrone Weeks led UMass with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Lari Ketner and Monty Mack scored 14 each. Rolan Roberts led Tech with 14 points and eight rebounds. Russ Wheeler tallied 14, Jenis Grindstaff 13 and Brendan Dunlop 12.

*UMass center Lari Ketner scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Minutemen past Virginia Tech, 64-58, in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Philadelphia. Tech ended the game with a 15-3 run but the Hokies trailed by as many as 18 with 2:50 remaining in the game after the Minutemen went on a 14-4 run.

After a shaky start, the Hokies went on a 10-3 run late in the first half to cut the lead to 29-22 and trailed by just nine at halftime. But Ketner, who made the All-Atlantic 10 first team, scored 12 of his 21 points and grabbed eight of his 15 rebounds in the second half. For Tech, Rolan Roberts scored 12 of his team-high 21 points in the second half and brought down all four of his rebounds in the final 20 minutes. Russ Wheeler was the only other Hokie in double figures with 10.


A CLOSER LOOK AT THE UMASS SERIES

*When Virginia Tech toppled UMass, 63-47, in Amherst two years ago, it was the Minutemen's second worst home loss since the Mullins Center opened seven years ago.

*UMass' 47 points against Tech two years ago were the fewest scored by UMass at the Mullins Center.

*When UMass went 0-for-1 from the free-throw line against Tech at the Mullins Center in 1997, it marked the only time in Bill Foster's tenure as Tech coach than an opponent failed to score from the foul line.

*Although it lost the game, Tech outrebounded UMass by a narrow margin, 30-29, in the regular season game in Blacksburg last season.

*When UMass shot 56.3 percent against Tech in the highly-acclaimed game in 1996, it was the highest shooting percentage by an opponent in Cassell Coliseum since the 1990 campaign. Louisville hit 60.7 percent from the field during a 97-78 win over Tech in January, 1990.

*Tech became only the fifth visiting team ever to win at the Mullins Center in the 1996-97 game.

*Only three Hokies now on the Tech roster played against UMass in Amherst two years ago. Russ Wheeler netted five points off the bench while Andr Ray and Alvaro Tor both played but did not score.

*Rolan Roberts is averaging 17.5 points in his two games against UMass. He scored 14 points in the game in Blacksburg and 21 in the game at the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

*Center Russ Wheeler scored 14 and 10 points, respectively, in last year's games against the Minutemen.


A NEW FACE

*Tech, plagued by injuries this season, recently added a walk-on to its roster. Phillip Smith practiced with the team for the first time on Dec. 9. Smith, from Wachapreague, Va., graduated from Broadwater Academy in 1995 and attended the University of Pennsylvania for two years. The 6-4, 190-pound swingman never saw time in a varsity game at Penn. He then decided to transfer to Tech and spent last year as a student. Smith, now a sophomore athletically, practices with the team but is not eligible to dress for home or away games.


OUCH!

*Needless to say, the Hokies have certainly been bitten by the injury bug this season. Tech lost redshirt freshman Clinton McPherson (Miami, Fla.) for the season when he tore the ACL in his right knee in late October. McPherson underwent successful arthroscopic knee surgery on Nov. 20 at Montgomery Regional Hospital.

Redshirt sophomore David Whaley (Sevierville, Tenn.) missed four games after breaking his right hand in basketball practice on Nov. 23. He returned for the Wake Forest game on Dec. 12. Rodrigo Viegas (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) missed the first game with a pulled right hamstring.


AHOY, MATE

*Three of Tech's players have ties to the Naval Academy. Eddie Lucas (Gaithersburg, Md.), Sean Floyd (Alexandria, Va.) and David Whaley (Sevierville, Tenn.) all transferred to Virginia Tech from Navy. Lucas was a starter for the Mids as a sophomore in 1995-96. Floyd played in one game before transferring after his freshman year. Whaley attended the Naval Academy Prep School for a year and spent one semester at Navy before coming to Tech.


TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY

*The Hokies entered last season having to replace their top five scorers from the previous year. This season, four of the top five scorers return, led by Rolan Roberts and his 13.6 ppg. Also back are Russ Wheeler (9.6 ppg), Eddie Lucas (9.1 ppg) and Brendan Dunlop (7.3 ppg).


ATLANTIC 10 HONORS

*Rolan Roberts (Woodbridge, Va.) and Dennis Mims (Morganton, N.C.) were named Atlantic 10 Player of the Week and Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week, respectively, for the week of Nov. 30. Roberts scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a Nov. 24 game against Liberty. Mims also posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds against the Flames. Mims earned his second A-10 Rookie of the Week citation this past week for his performance against Coastal Carolina. He posted a career-high 17 points to go with four rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot.


ROLAN, ROLAN, ROLAN

*Last season, Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team selection Rolan Roberts became the first freshman in 20 years to lead Virginia Tech in scoring. He netted 13.6 ppg to place second among rookie scorers in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The last freshman to pace Tech in scoring was Dale Solomon, who averaged 17.8 ppg in 1978-79. Solomon would go on to lead the Hokies in scoring every year of his career.


MR. ROBERTS' NEIGHBORHOOD

* Roberts also set a Tech freshman record with 60 blocked shots last season, eclipsing the previous mark of 56 set by Bobby Beecher during the 1982-83 season.


MORE ABOUT ROLAN'S BLOCK PARTY

*Roberts has registered at least one blocked shot in 33 of his 36 games as a Virginia Tech Hokie. This season, Roberts had four blocked shots against William & Mary and UNC Asheville, three versus Coastal Carolina and Winthrop, two against Liberty and WVU and one against ETSU, UNC Charlotte and Wake Forest.


ELITE HOKIES

*In fall testing, all but two records were broken in the Tech basketball strength and conditioning program. Andr Ray (Lillington, N.C.) recorded team-highs in three categories - bench press (340 pounds), back squat (450, tied with Rolan Roberts) and hang clean (275). Ray, Roberts and Eddie Lucas all earned Elite Awards for their efforts. Lucas led the team with 25 pull-ups and set a team record with 54 dips. Guard Sean Floyd (Alexandria, Va.) led the team in the 20-yard shuttle run, finishing in a time of 4.15 seconds.


TECH AT CASSELL COLISEUM

*Virginia Tech is in its 38th season of play at Cassell Coliseum where the men's basketball teams have compiled 373 victories and just 89 losses - a winning percentage of 80.9. The first basketball game was played in the Coliseum on January 3, 1962 with the Hokies routing Alabama, 91-67. On September 17, 1977, Virginia Tech officials and friends dedicated the Coliseum in honor of the late Stuart K. Cassell. Tech has never finished a season with a losing home record since the Coliseum was opened and has had just one break-even home season. In fact, Tech has won 54 of the last 68 games played at home over the last six years. The Hokies were 8-6 at home last season and are 4-2 this season.


ASSISTS

*Rolan Roberts (Woodbridge, Va.) leads the Hokies in blocks (21), steals (18) and offensive rebounds (28). He is averaging 14.8 points per game, second on the team to Eddie Lucas, and is pulling down a team-leading 7.0 rebounds per game. Roberts is shooting 47.1 percent from the field, second on the team to Lucas. He is second in the Atlantic 10 in blocked shots with an average of 2.33 per game.

*Eddie Lucas (Gaithersburg, Md.) leads Tech in points per game (16.0), field-goal percentage (48.6), 3-point field-goal percentage (46.7) and free-throw percentage (85.7). He has not scored fewer than 13 points in a game this season and has been Tech's leading scorer in five games. Before the last game against Winthrop, Lucas had been leading the Atlantic 10 in 3-point field goal percentage and 3-point field goals made.

*Eddie Lucas is shooting 63.3 percent from the floor (19 of 30) in games played on the road this season. Lucas has averaged 16.0 points per game in the Hokies' three road contests.

*Guard Brendan Dunlop (Bronx, N.Y.) is averaging 14.2 points over the last six games after averaging 6.3 points in the first three games. Dunlop is shooting 52.9 percent (27 of 51) from the floor over the last six games. He leads Tech in assists with 37 and is now averaging 11.6 points per game, the third highest on the team. Dunlop scored a career-high 20 points against UNC Asheville earlier this season. He is also playing a team-leading 34.0 minutes per game.

*After sitting out the West Virginia game, freshman Dennis Mims (Morganton, N.C.) has given Tech a much needed spark off the bench the last two games. He scored 17 points and grabbed four rebounds against Coastal Carolina and followed that up with 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots against Winthrop. He is third in the Atlantic 10 with an average of 2.00 blocked shots per game. Mims has upped his scoring average to 7.3 points per game.

*Center Russ Wheeler (Dalton, Ga.) is averaging 3.4 points and 4.4 rebounds over the last five games. During Tech's first four games, he averaged 9.3 points and 10.0 boards per game. Wheeler has been to the free throw line just two times in the Hokies' last five games.

*The Hokies have 63 total blocks through nine games, an average of 7.0 per game. Eight different Hokies have tallied blocked shots thus far this year, led by Rolan Roberts' 21 blocks and freshman Dennis Mims' (Morganton, N.C.) 16 swats. Tech holds a 63-21 advantage in blocked shots over its opponents. The Hokies had a season-high 10 blocked shots against William & Mary and Winthrop this season. Tech has had 19 blocked shots over the last two games.

*Seven of Tech's 11 players are playing more than 15 minutes per game, led by Brendan Dunlop's 34.0 minutes a game. The Hokies' five starters are playing more than 25.6 minutes a game.

*Tech's five starters have accounted for 79.2 percent (445 of 594) of the total points scored by the Hokies this season.

*Despite not starting a player taller than 6-8, the Hokies are outrebounding opponents by almost five boards per game.


MORE ASSISTS

*After having seven double-figure rebounding performances in the first four games, the Hokies have not had a player grab more than nine boards the last five games.

*The Hokies have made 19 of their 26 free-throw attempts (73.1 percent) in the last two games. In the three games previous to that, Tech had made just 23 of its 44 free-throw attempts.

*Tech has used the same starting lineup in eight of its nine games so far this season. Brendan Dunlop, Eddie Lucas, Rolan Roberts and Russ Wheeler have started all nine games. Jermaine Kimbrough (Shaker Heights, Ohio) started in place of Andr Ray (Lillington, N.C.) for the Liberty contest. Ray missed the game due to a death in the family.


TECH ON TV

*Virginia Tech Sports Today airs weekly through the end of March. The 30-minute show includes highlights, features and interviews on Virginia Tech athletics. The show airs on the following stations: WSLS, Roanoke (noon, Sunday); WKPT, Bristol/Johnson City/Kingsport (12:30 p.m., Sunday); WPEN, Norfolk/Portsmouth/Virginia Beach (9:30 p.m., Tuesday); and Home Team Sports (4 p.m., Tuesday).


TECH ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB

*Notes , releases and stats on Virginia Tech basketball are available on Tech's official website (HokieSports.com).

ATLANTIC 10 WEBSITE

*The Atlantic 10 Conference on the World Wide Web is accessible 24 hours a day at www.Atlantic10.org. The site contains current information on all facets of the Atlantic 10 Conference. During basketball season, standings, notes, schedules/results, statistics, breaking news and other pertinent information will be updated on a weekly basis.


ON DECK

*The Hokies return home to Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday, Jan. 6 to face Xavier in an Atlantic 10 Conference game. The Xavier contest is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m., and will be televised nationally by ESPN2. The Musketeers have won the last four contests against Tech, including a 77-66 decision in Cincinnati and a 74-63 win in Blacksburg last season. Following the Xavier contest, the Hokies will hit the road once again and play at St. Joseph's on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m., and at La Salle on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.







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