The debut of Virginia's 7-foot-4 center, Ralph Sampson, met with rave reviews tonight as the freshman tossed in 17 points while putting on a display of flashy ballhandling in leading the Cavaliers over Johns Hopkins, 93-58.
After missing his first shot, Sampson scored his and Virginia's first basket on a shattering dunk off an Alley Oop pass from forward Lee Raker. Sampson went on to score 13 points in 15 minutes of first-half floor time while the sellout crowd of 9,000 looked on in bliss.
"I didn't have any jitters," said Sampson, who seemed to be wondering what all the fuss was about. "I just got myself ready to play, got myself comfortable and played my game."
Virginia actually fell behind, 15-12 seven minutes into the game but then the Pre-Sampson-Era duo of Raker and Jeff Lamp sparked the Cavs' fast break with ball-hawking defense.
Virginia reeled off a 17-2 burst highlighted by a Sampson steal in the back court in which he dribbled up the middle on a fast break and dished off a nifty pass to forward Mike Owens for an easy layup. Virginia led at the half, 43-27.
Sampson appeared to be enjoying himself.
"Yeah, it was almost like another high school game," said Sampson. "We've been scrimmaging so much with each other it was just good to play against someone else, even though this game wasn't too tough."
Sampson played fewer than seven minutes in the second half as the Cavs quickly ran up a 27-point lead, 59-33, with 13.11 remaining. He hit two of his three shots in the half and wound up eight for 12 for the night. Sampson was "slightly disappointed" in his rebounding total of eight.
Virginia Coach Terry Holland said, "You can't tell anything from this game. I mean, there's no doubt Ralph is a good player. He can shoot and he passes very well. We'll see what happens."
Sampson and Virginia face a more serious game Saturday night in their first Atlantic Coast Conference game of the year, againist Georgia Tech.