When teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten hook up in basketball, the game is always billed as Big Ten power vs. ACC finesse.
Ohio State beat Virginia, 70-65, today in a nationally televised game and the difference between the two teams was Ohio State's quickness.
"Jeff Lamp and I just couldn't stay with their guards down the stretch," Cavalier point guard Jeff Jones said. "They just moved better than we did."
Quickness to the ball and with the ball proved Virginia's undoing today. The 17th-ranked Cavs, now 16-4, trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and led by as many as seven the second. But down the stretch, when loose balls were decisive, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes (14-3) did what they had to.
"Before the game we talked about the fact that they weren't that fast," said Kevin Ransey, who scored 18 points, second high to guard mate Carter Scott's 21. "We wanted to take advantage of it."
Ransey did just that on the game's two crucial plays. The first came with 3:02 left. Virginia had just tied the game at 57 on two Lee Raker free throws. Buckeye center Herb Williams was fouled, but missed the first of his one-and-one free throws.
Virginia's Ralph Sampson grabbed the rebound. Before he could put it away or pass it off, OSU freshman Clark Kellogg tied him up.
Sampson, 7-foot-4 freshman, won the ensuing jump ball and tapped the ball into the back court towards Jones, but Ransey outran Jones for the ball. "That was the play," Sampson said. "They just got the ball."
Buckeye Coach Eldon Miller called time. After the timeout, Ransey set up near midcourt as if to hold the ball out, then suddenly cut down the lane, past Jones for a 10-foot jumper.
As the ball swished through for a 59-57 Ohio State lead, Virginia's Terry Gates was called for elbowing Jim Smith. Smith made one of two foul shots for a 60-57 lead with 2:40 left.
Virginia Coach Terry Holland called time to set a play to get the ball to Jeff Lamp. Lamp got the ball but was called for traveling. It was one of three times in the final three minutes Lamp was called for walking while making his favorite lean-in move. Lamp scored nine points, only the fifth time in 74 games as a collegian he has been held below double figures.
"I've been making that move for three years," Lamp said of the travel calls. "I don't understand why it became steps today. I don't think they (the three Big Ten officials) even look at your feet. They just see you fake and assume it's a walk."
After Lamp's walk, Ransey was fouled by Lamp as he went by him in the lane. He made both shots for a 62-57 lead with 2:11 and Virginia never got closer than three again.
Lee Raker and Sampson led Virginia with 14 points each -- Sampson also had 10 rebounds -- and Jones and Mike Owens had 10 each.
In addition to 39 points from its guards, Ohio State got 13 points from center Herb Williams and 11 points and 14 rebounds from Kellogg, even though the muscular freshman was benched early in the second half by Miller, apparently for poor shot selection.
Despite the loss, Holland seemed pleased with his team. Except for Sampson, this was the first national television appearance for all his players. It came in front of 13,993 fans geared up by the presence of Ohio State's 1960 national champions, including John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas. The Buckeyes also were smarting from a stunning loss to Wisconsin Saturday night.
"I was proud of the way our guys played," Holland said. "We had several chances to take over and couldn't quite do it. Ohio State did what it had to down the stretch. But we played well."
Early, it looked as if OSU's power would blow Virginia out of ancient St. John's Arena. With Williams slamming his 240 pounds into Sampson's 215 at every opportunity, the Bucks jumped to a 20-10 lead the first 13 minutes.
Eventually though, the Cavaliers started thinking basketball. Keyed by two Sampson hooks that seemed to fall from just under the American flag hanging overhead, they took off on a 20-6 tear that gave them a 30-26 halftime lead.
Jones had five of his eight assists during that spurt as the Cavs hit 10 of 13 shots after a four-of-21 start.
"It took us a while to get used to the different rules," Owens said. "Once we realized that there wasn't going to be a call unless there was a lot of contact, we were okay."
Virginia won key ACC games againstDuke and North Carolina State and looked ready to take command early in the second half. A three-point play by Lamp, on one of few occasions he was able to make his favorite move, put the visitors up, 39-32, with 16:16 left. With ahe chance to go up by nine, the Cavs twice turned the ball over (among the 21 turnovers for the game). That breathed life into the Buckeyes and the crowd, which had started booing its team when Buck shots refused to fall.
During the next eight minutes, Virginia had just two field goals, both by Sampson. When Lamp missed an easy layup, Buckeye reserve guard Todd Penn quickly answered with a jump shot for a 48-47 lead with 9:15 left.
Both coaches then turned cautious and the lead seesawed for six minutes until Baker made it 57-57 seconds before Williams went to the line for what turned out to be his critical miss.
"I thought we showed class coming from behind," Ransey said. "Virginia's a good team. They could finish in the top five in the Big Ten."