Patient Virginia sat back in its tight zone defense and waited for N.C. State to run out of 20-footers and people to shoot them before putting together a second-half surge and stealing a hard-fought 63-55 ACC victory before a capacity crowd of 9,200 tonight at University Hall.
Now 2-0 in the ACC and 10-0 overall, the Cavaliers, ranked third in the AP poll and fourth in UPI's, could not relax until Wolfpack starting center Craig Watts had departed with five fouls and starters Thurl Bailey and Art Jones and reserve center Chuck Nevitt had all been slowed to a walk with four personals.
After the reed-thin Nevitt picked up foul No. 4 trying to prevent a pass intended for Virginia's 7-4 inside force, Ralph Sampson (24 points, 13 rebounds), the hosts ran off an 8-0 string that turned a two-point advantage into a more comfortable 55-45 lead with 8:19 remaining in the game. Sampson had two of the baskets and Jeff Lamp (17) and Othell Wilson each scored two.
"The key to the game was that stretch where we played good defense," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "We forced them to shoot from the perimeter and then check out very well. We tried to do a better job in the second half of being conscious of where the shooter was. They took the same kind of shots in the first half but made a good percentage of them."
State Coach Jim Valvano gave Sampson the credit.
"He was the difference," said Valvano. "I'm calling Red Auerbach right after the game. If you wanted to start a pro or college franchise today, Ralph Sampson is the starting point. He is the most valuable player in the world from that aspect.
What UVa has is not only Sampson but experience. They have (Lee) Raker and Lamp and the team doesn't get flustered."
Perhaps the Wolfpack's strategy was intended to frustrate the Cavs. They wanted to be physical against Sampson, beat the slower Cavs up court and hit the 20-footers. For brief periods of the physical contest, all three tactics were successful. But down the stretch, when State, now 0-3 in the conference and 7-4 overall, called for stratagems A,B or all of the above, none worked.
Sampson ignored the roughouse play of State's three centers and his 10 turnovers and scored 10 second half points. The Cavaliers also kept up with racehorse State and dared them to take the long shots. The Wolfpack shot 61 times but made only 24, only five in the final 10 minutes.
"We just couldn't tie the game Each time we had a chance we'd get a turnover, miss a shot or get called for a foul," said State's Derreck Whittenburg. "Once we got behind by 10 points, it was tough to come back."
State scored two quick baskets in the final three minutes but Sampson countered with a fingertip layup and a dunk. Sampson's final basket with 1:42 to play sealed the Cavs' 15th straight victory, now the longest winning streak in Division 1 play.
State, which outscored UVa from the field, 48-40, got in foul trouble early. After Sampson scored UVa's first three baskets the Cavs took advantage of State's agressiveness and began a fifteen minute march to the free throw line. They made 17 out of 23 in the first half and took a 35-31 halftime lead. The Cavalier offense was a little smoother in the second half. Lamp began to work his way free for open shots and State had to be concerned with stopping him in addition to shutting down Sampson. They didn't do either.