Even Larry Nance, Clemson's 6-foot-10 all-America candidate, had to admit today that second-ranked Virginia should be the heavy favorite Monday night when the teams meet in an 8 o'clock ACC contest at Littlejohn Coliseum.
"I think we have a very good team (2-2 in the conference and 13-3 over all), but Virginia is very tough," said Nance, the Tigers' leading scorer and rebounder. "Weighing everything, UVa being undefeated (5-0 and 13-0), having the longest winning streak in the country (18 straight over two years), playing great and of course having the best big man anywhere, Ralph Sampson, I'd have to say they should be favored all the way. I don't care if they are coming in here, they should be favored. . ."
The Tigers were ranked 19th in The Associated Press poll before their 68-62 overtime loss to visiting Maryland Saturday, their first defeat at home in 22 games, nine against ACC foes.
"That was a bit disappointing, to lose at home," said Nance, now 10th on the all-time scoring and fourth on the all-time Tiger rebounding chart. "It had been a long time (a loss to Old Dominion, 61-59, in overtime in a second-round NIT game in 1979). We know UVa is good, but we don't plan to lay down and die because of Virginia's record. They still have to come in here and beat us."
Clemson Coach Bill Foster, somewhat shocked at his team's 29 percent field goal shooting figure in Saturday's second half, is hoping for a better performance against Virginia.
"We usually play well coming off a loss," he said. "The last time Virginia lost a game was when we beat them in the ACC tournament and I'm sure they'll remember that. We killed ourselves against Maryland by failing to hit the good shots. We weren't as sharp as we should have been. We'll just have to snap back and play harder against Virginia."
Take away a one-point loss to Marquette, a two-point defeat at Wake Forest and the overtime defeat to Maryland and Clemson would be 16-0. The Tigers are an excellent defensive team, having allowed an average of 55.5 points to rank 15th in the country. With Nance and 6-10 mates Bill Ross and Horace Wyatt, along with key reserves 6-9 Raymond Jones, 6-8 Fred Gilliam and 6-7 Clarke Bynum, the Tigers usually have had their way on the boards and scored well inside.
"We didn't play that well against the Terps," said Wyatt, whose four points and two rebounds in 33 minutes compared unfavorably to his 11.4 and 6.8 season figures. "We weren't thinking ahead to Virginia. No one can think past Maryland. I know I didn't play well at all and I usually have good games against Maryland. I usually play well against Virginia, too."
Clemson's man-to-man defense probably will have Nance playing Sampson, Wyatt going against 6-6 Lee Raker and Ross checking 6-9 Craig Robinson up front.
"I think I prefer Larry to deal with Mr. Sampson," said Wyatt, a junior. "He ususally holds his own with him."
Nance, a thin, agile look alike to Sampson, isn't all that anxious to tackle the 7-4 giant.
"The last time he scored 31 points on me and I think I got 22," Nance said. "If we plan to win, and we can win, I can't let him get loose for 31 again. If I held him to 15 or less, we'd be okay. I'll just try to front him, stop him from getting the ball where he wants it. I don't think I can completely stop him. I just hope he stops himself."
Should Sampson have a subpar game, UVa's other offensive weapon, Jeff Lamp, could kill Clemson. The guard poured in 21 points to lead the Cavs to their 85-48 win at Georgia Tech Saturday night.
That's it," Nance said. "We can't get too keyed up on stopping Sampson and allow the other guys to beat us. One man usually doesn't beat you by himself. My job will be not to let Sampson beat us. And that won't be easy."