So here is again, Virginia and North Carolina for the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament title.
Virginia, the defeating champion, got to Saturday's 8:30 p.m. final with an impressive, crunching 72-60 victory over Clemson after North Carolina worn down arch-rival N.C. State, 70-56, in the first game of the semifinal doubleheader.
Virginia's title in 1976, when the consistent Cavaliers knocked off three nationally ranked teams on their way to an automatic NCAA bid, was said to be a fluke because it was won in Capital Centre, Landover, Md.
But here in Greensboro Coliseum, bacnk on Tobacco Road again, the Cavaliers broke tonight's game open - with a 15-point spurt midway in the second half - with rugged defense and that wonderful, patient offense. They pruned Wayne Rollins, Clemson's 7-foot-2 Tree, and declawed the Tigers in rebounding.
And they broke away with Billy Langloh, their star guard and the glue of this team that came back from season-long injuries and illness, on the bench. He got his fourth foul on the second-half tipoff.
A number of NBA scouts and general managers were in attendance to watch Clemson's 7-foot-2 junior center, Wayne (Tree) Rollins, go against Virginia's rugged defense. NFL scouts should have been here, too, the play being as rough as it was in the first game.
The primary combatants were Rollins and Steve Castellan, Virginia's husky 6-10 sophomore from Washington's St. Anselm's School. For the most part Castellan was coming out ahead, even though Rollins had 10 points by halftime.
Virginia had a 30-22 lead and possession of the ball goind into the final two minutes of the half. But Dave Koesters lost the ball dribbling into a crowded lane and two more misses by the Cavaliers resulted in three unanswered baskets by Clemson and at intermission the Tigers trailed, 30-28.
Billy Langloh, the glue of this Virginia team, got his third foul with 5:28 left in the half. But Bobby Stokes, a hero of the Cavaliers' championship last year, was an able substitute for [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
He and Mike Owens, another sub, led the Cavaliers with six points each in the half. It was Stokes, who is nicknamed Gnat because of his quickness, stealing a Greg Coles pass ans scoring a fast-break layup that broke a 12-12 tie midway in the half.
Clemson never got closer than two points after that until the final minute.
Virginia held a commanding 20-11 advantage in rebounding, including seven by Castellan to two for Rollins. But the Cavaliers' strong defensive effort was partially offset by its offense.
The Cavaliers committed 11 turnovers, an extremely high number for a slow-paced game with only 34 first-half possessions. And they took a few shots that were only a few feet inside Brian Magid's range.
Virginia was hurt at the start of the second half when Langloh was called for his fourth foul while attempting to get the second-half tap. He came out 90 seconds later, but the Cavaliers clung to their small advantage in the opening four minutes of the half.
Then the Cavaliers started to play that wonderful, patient offense. And it rewarded them with a 43-36 lead with 11:52 left. In five possessions, Castellan hit an open 15-footer, Mark Newlen got another and then had a three-point play following an offensive rebound.
Virginia then ran off eight unanswered points and by the next television time-out, with 8:7564 to play, the Cavaliers had - for their style of play - a whopping 53-38 lead.
The Cavaliers had missed only one shot in 10 minutes, and that was Koesters miss that Newlen converted into a three point play.
It was an opposite story for Clemson, which went through aspell of 10 possessions, with 2-for-8 field-goal accuracy, a missed bonus situation by Rollins and four turnovers, including steals by Owens and Koesters.
State had every opportunity to win tonight. Carolina had offensive troubles and foul trouble. But the Tar Heels managed to get ahead by 11 points and go to the four-corners stall with 8 1/2 minutes left. Phil Ford, their star guard, fouled out with 2:08 to play, giving the Wolfpack a chance to further reduce a margin they had cut to six points.
Carolina players missed two bonus foul situations, too, but the Wolflpack had no patience. It took the first available shot, usually from 20 feet, and put up five straight blanks.
State led, 35-34, at halftime of the opening game. But the Wolfpack had not capitalized on its opportunities to break open the game.
Late in the half, after Norm Sloan benched point guard Clyde Austin with three fouls, State wnt to a 2-3 zone defense. The Wolfpack packed inside neatly and Carolina tried to force the ball to the middle when it wasn't missing open jumpers.
North Carolina made only six of its next 16 shots and turned the ball over six times as the score reached 33-28, State's favor. But the Wolfpack had seven turnovers of its own in that span, the Kenny Carr and Craig Davis both missed the first of one-and-one foul shots.
Carolina finally began hitting, Walter Davis' 35-footer at the buzzer climazing three straight baskets by the Tar Heels. Meanwhile, State answered only with a Dirk Ewing layup and the last two of its 13 first-half turnovers.
As it did against Maryland, State came out on an emotional high. It again controlled the boards and, at one stage, after referee Hank Nichols called Austin's third foul, for a charge into Phil Ford. Sloan charged onto the floor to argue and was assessed a two-shot technical foul.
Ford led Carolina for the half with 11 points while Walter Davis added 10. Mike O'Koren had three fouls for the Heels. Kenny Carr led State with 10 points.
State outrebounded the Tar Heels, 18-13.
They could have stopped the highlight film after the center jump the way State played for the first five possessions of the second half. Hawkeye Whitney put up an air ball, Austin stepped inbounds before he threw in the ball and the Wolfpack missed its first three shots.
When Walter Davis hit two straight jumpers. Carolina had a 38-35 lead and Sloan quickly ordered a time out.
It didn't help. By the time Sloan was forced to call another timeout, with 13:53 left, Carolina had increaded its advantage to 48-39 and forced the Wolfpack out of its zone.
John Kuester, the scrappy No. 2 guard who is completely overshadowed by Ford, was instrumental in giving the Tar Heels control. His steal lead to a Ford fast-break layup, then he hit two straight jumpers from the key and Caroliina led 46-39.
State had only two baskets in its first 14 possessions of the second half, and five turnovers. Carolina, at one stage, went 16 straight possessions in the half before losing the ball without a shot.
Meanwhile Ford and O'Koren both picked up their fourth fouls and went to the bench. State's Austin got his fourth and stayed in the game, only to foul out with 10:02 to play.
When the Carolina lead reached 11 points, at 58-47 with 9 1/2 minutes to play, Tar Heel coach Dean Smith sent Ford and O'Koren back into the game at the next dead ball.He gave them instructions to go into the gour-corners stall, which the Tar Heels did after Hawkeye Whitney missed a shot.