Virginia is a two-man team trying to survive in a game meant to be played by five.
Sophomores Jeff Lamp and Lee Raker may be as good as any one-two scoring punch in the nation, but their dominance of the Cavalier offense is starting to take its toll on the rest of the team.
"If you go to two people, it's hard to argue when you win," said center Steve Castellan, "but when you lose...."
And right now, the Cavaliers are losing. They did manage to squeak past Temple, 73-71, Monday night in Charlottesville, but they were beaten by 18 points by Duke and by 20 by North Carolina State in their last two Atlantic Coast Conference games.
They will try to improve their 3-3 ACC record, 12-6 overall, tonight at Cole Field House (WJLA-TV-7 at 9 o'clock) when they challenge Maryland, (3-2, 14-5).
Raker, who has missed the last two games with an abdominal muscle injury, has only a 50-50 chance of playing tonight. With him, Virginia is a fairly sound team. Without him and his 17.1 scoring average, Virginia's two-man team is reduced to a Jeff Lamp show.
The 6-foot-6 Lamp is the ACC's leading scorer with a 24.4 average and has scored 38 and 32 points in the two games Raker has missed. Lamp is a magnificent one-on-one player who is capable of scoring from outside with his jump shot or from inside with an assortment of moves.
With Raker out of the lineup, the pressure on Lamp is even greater to score. He says he is holding up well, but teammates admit he may be starting to wear down.
"I'm just going to do what I think needs to be done for us to win," Lamp said.
"He'll hold up for awhile, but hopefully he won't have to do that much longer," said Coach Terry Holland "We need Raker back."
How the rest of the team is holding up, however, should also be a concern of Holland.
Virginia, as much as any team, has definite roles for its players to fill and there is not much room or encouragement for improvisation. That is starting to catch up with the Cavaliers.
The offense is made for Lamp and Raker to maneuver almost as they please looking for shots.It is the job of the point guard, either Bobby Stokes or Jeff Jones, to get the ball to them.
The big men, Castellan and Terry Gates or Mike Owens, are supposed to rebound, set picks and play defense.
When Raker has been out of the lineup, the rest of the team, used to playing its roles, has had a tough time adjusting. Even though Lamp has been scoring more, a one-man team is not going to beat very many opponents in the ACC.
"I could see this coming," said Castellan, who is the Cavaliers' third-leading scorer with only a 7.5 average. "We always look to them. When the rest of us get the ball, we say, 'Where did this come from?' and it goes right back to Lamp Raker.
"I'm not trying to take anything away from either of them, because they are great players, but we need a five-man effort."
Together, Lamp and Raker are averaging nearly half of Virginia's 79 points a game.
Their styles are as different as those of a professional entertainer and a construction worker.
Raker is the construction worker. There is not much pretty about his game.
"Jeff is flashier than I am," Raker said. "He's really a good jumper with some unbelievable moves. If you're looking for a word to describe me, I guess workmanlike is as good as any."
While Lamp darts in and out of a low post, slides along the baseline, dribbles the ball between his legs or comes up with some acrobatic moves, Raker roams the perimeter, relying more on his jump shot than anything else. He does score inside, not because of his moves, but because he is determined and aggressive.
"Control is my style," said the 6-5 Raker. "I just try to go where I can get a shot. Aggressiveness is very important, too, especially if you are playing a forward position like I am. I've always been aggressive, but maybe I've become even more lately."
Holland says Raker "is a smart player. He knows his limitations. He knows what he can do and what he can't do. When you think of a 6-5 forward, you think of a Hawkeye Whitney type who can throw them in form over his head and behind his back. But Lee's not that kind of player. He's more of a Dave DeBusschere type."