Jeff Lamp sank a six-foot baseline jumper with six seconds left to lift the University of Virginia over determined Northeast Louisiana, 79-78, in an NIT first-round game before a capacity crowd of 9,000 tonight at University Hall.
Clemson, the third ACC team in the tournament, upset Kentucky, 68-67, at Lexington.
The Cavaliers (19-9) will meet the winner of Thursday night's Alabama-St. Bonaventure game in the second round Monday. Should Alabama win, the game will be played in Birmingham. If the Bonnies win, the game will be here at University Hall at 7:30.
Lamp's basket over David Hall offset a brilliant 38-point night by the Indiasn' All-America foward, Calvin Natt. The 6-foot-5 senior put on a show well worth the price of admission, especially in the second half when he scored 28 points, including a pair of free throws to put the Indians ahead, 78-77, with 13 seconds remaining.
cThere was a lot of pressure on me but I'm used to it now," said Natt, who came into the game ranked as the 10th-best scorer in major-college history. "I just tried to block the people out of my mind but you couldn't block out allthat noise. They made a lot of noise."
The partisan fans inspired the hotshooting hosts to a 56 percent fieldgoal night and were set to celebrate following a Mike Owens layup that gave Virginia a 7o-66 lead with 3:22 to play.
Junior Kenny Natt showed a few fancy moves of his own to spark the Indians. He fired in two consecutive 22-footers from the top of the key to cut the deficit to 73-70 with 2:44 to play. Forty seconds later, big brother Calvin cut in front of two Virginia players for a steal and raced the length of the court for a dunk.
Jeff Jones and Lamp each sank two free throws sandwiched around a Hall layup to push the Cavalier lead to three points again, 77-74, with 47 seconds on the clock.
But for the last four years NLU has gone to its star and last night was no different. John Pickett lofted a nice alley-oop pass to Natt who laid the ball in to pull his team to within a point again.
Bobby Stokes had a chance to give Virginia a little breathing room but he missed the first shot in a one-in-one foul situation. Natt came down with the rebound and was fouled.
Virginia Coach Terry Holland called two timeouts to rattle Natt and the Virginia fans did their best to help with their arm waving and shouting.
But Natt calmly stepped to the stripe and dropped in both shots to temporarily put his team ahead.
"Right then, we wanted to get the ball up on a break," said Lamp, who finished with 20 points. "The shot wasn't designed for me but I wanted to take it."
Lamp got open on the baseline and, after taking a pass from Jones, jumped into Hall and swished the game-winner.
"I'll always remember that shot because I got my hand on the pass," said Natt. "I tipped the ball. Another inch and we would have won."
Lee Raker did a good job of containing the mobile Natt in the first half, limiting him to 10 points. But Hall, with four baskets, and Pickett and Kenny Natt with six points each, kept the Indians from dropping too far out of sight at intermission, 40-30.
"In the first half, they hurt us on defense guarding the ball," said NLU Coach Lenny Fant, who was coaching his last game after a 26-year college career. "The turnovers (11) hurt us. But we shot well in the second half to remain in the game."
Despite Natt's 10-for-10 shooting and the Indians' 55 percent figure, Virginia maintained a slim lead.