Sophomore Jeff Lamp sneaked behind Maryland's zone defense, took a lovely pass from teammate Lee Raker and scored on a layup with 34 seconds remaining to propel Virginia to a controversial 75-72 victory today.
On a day when Maryland's Albert King scored a career high of 30 points, Ernest Graham took the Terrapins' final shot near the foul line in an effort to force an overtime.
Graham's jumper hit the rim and was rebounded by Raker, who was immediately surrounded by three Terrapins. King fouled him with three seconds remaining, and Raker hit the first free throw for Virginia's breatheeasy three-point lead. He missed the second.
The critical layup by Lamp, who scored 32 points, was preceded by a questionable back-court violation called on Maryland guard Dutch Morley with 1:59 left.
The teams were tied at 72 as Morley had the ball near midcourt. Virginia's Bobby Stokes batted the ball out of Morley's grasp. As soon as Morley went over the line to retrieve it, he was called for the over-and-back violation.
"I don't understand the call," Morley said. "I could say a lot of things, but if the ref said it was a back-court violation, it was. I know I didn't have possession."
The rules state a back-court violation occurs if the offensive player was the last one to touch the ball while the ball was in control of his team before it went in the back court.
John Moreau, the official who made the call, interpreted the rule and explained the sequence of events when contacted by telephone after the game tonight.
"The last one who touched the ball in the front court was red (Maryland)," Moreau said. "When he retouched the ball in the back court, that constituted a back-court violation.
"Team possession was never lost by the batting of the ball," Moreau added. "The opponent never gained possession of the ball."
"I haven't seen the films, but I'd bet money it was a wrong call," said Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell. "I have nothing to say except our guys played great, well enough to win. And I'm proud of them. I hope we get another shot at Virginia in the [conference] tournament."
The loss left Maryland at 17-9 overall and 6-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terrapins finished fourth in the ACC and will open the tournament Thursday against Clemson (5-7).
Virginia improved to 18-8 with its fifth straight victory over the Terrapins and finished 7-5 in the ACC, good for third place. The Cavaliers will take on the winner of Sunday morning's coin flip between Wake Forest and North Carolina State, who tied for sixth place.
While Lamp and King, two of college basketball's sophomore prodigies, were putting on a wonderful show, Raker's less flashy heroics were just as important down the stretch.
Playing with pulled stomach muscles, Raker hit two free throws to tie the game at 72, then made the pass of the day to set up Lamp for the winning layup.
After the backcourt call, Virginia held the ball for almost 90 seconds. Raker had the ball on the wing when he spotted Lamp open low on the baseline. He fed him the ball and Lamp whirled around Larry Gibson for the basket.
Maryland called time out with 18 seconds remaining, then worked the ball around for a last shot.
Graham, who hit seven of 17 shots from the floor and finished with 17 points, insisted he was bumped by a Virginia player on his attempt to tie the game. He put up his shot hoping to get two free throws.
"Ernest said the guy bumped him," Driesell said, "so he threw it up there for the free throw."
But there was no call. Raker then was fouled by King. He made one of two free throws and Maryland's last-gasp attempt to get the ball downcourt for a shot with two seconds left failed when Virginia's Steve Castellan intercepted the pass.
Raker, meanwhile, said his game-winning pass to Lamp "just happened. Jeff just broke underneath and he was open. We were in a free-lance situation with two cutters going (to the basket)."
"It was a great pass," Lamp said. "I went up between two guys (Gibson and Buck Williams) for the score. We had no set play. We were just looking for the open man."
Lamp and King, meanwhile, were mesmerizing all day -- Lamp swishing shot after shot from the baseline, King leaping in the lane and shooting high above the crowd.
Lamp was 13 of 21 from the floor and six of seven from the foul line, King was 12 of 18 and six of nine at free throw line.
"Lamp is a great shooter and his team sets him up well," King said. "There are four or five picks coming at you at once, and they build their team around him.
"Ours is not a patterned type of team. We just have a different kind of offense.
"Today I felt comfortable. I felt better. I wasn't pumping. I was going straight up and shooting. In high school, that (pumping, faking, etc.) was all I did. It was my normal game. But I think I'll do this more often."