When Virginia's Jeff Lamp left the Omni Thursday night, Notre Dame was leading Brigham Young by 10 points at halftime and the 6-foot-5 all-America began to think about a rematch with the Fighting Irish.
"I really expected to play Notre Dame," Lamp said today. "They were winning when I left and I really thought they would win."
Virginia (27-3) had won its NCAA East Region semifinal game against Tennessee, 62-48, earlier in the evening. Lamp and his teammates were hoping for a chance to avenge their regular-season, 57-56 loss to Notre Dame, their first defeat of the year.
But Danny Ainge scored a layup with two seconds left to stun the Irish, 51-50. Brigham Young (25-6) thus became the only barrier between Virginia and a final four berth. The teams play in the East region final Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (WRC-TV-4).
Will Lamp and his teammates suffer a letdown now that Notre Dame is on its way back to South Bend?
"I was surprised, but there won't be any letdowns," said Lamp, who scored 18 points against Tennessee. "We want to go to the final four and we have to beat Brigham Young to get there."
And no one is taking Brigham Young lightly, particularly not after Ainge's 37-point show in the Cougars' 78-55 trouncing of UCLA and the come-from-behind decision over heavily favored Notre Dame.
"This is a kick in the rear for us," BYU Coach Frank Arnold said today.
"We're having fun here. We have nothing to lose and we plan to go all out when we play Virginia. We're the underdogs and, win, lose or draw, we can't feel bad about losing to class people."
But Arnold is not thinking about losing. With the 6-foot-5 Ainge and three bruising front-court players in 6-11 Greg Kite, 6-10 Fred Roberts and 6-8 Steve Trumbo, Arnold feels his team has a good shot at sending the Cavaliers home, too.
"I don't know what we are going to do right now except try to get a lot of fast-break layups before (Ralph) Sampson gets down court and blocks them," Arnold said. "Terry (Holland, the Virginia coach) talked about our tall timber underneath but we have a lot of heavy-legged kids who can't jump a lick. They've got a 7-4 guy who makes a big difference out there."
Sampson scored only nine points, one in the final 31 minutes of the Tennessee game, but Holland said the center will get the ball inside as often as his teammates can get it to him.
If Brigham Young's big men can stop Sampson, the rest of the Cavaliers must hit outside the Cougar zone.
"Lamp and (Lee) Baker hit about 80 per cent because Tennessee collapsed around Ralph," Holland said. "I don't know much about Brigham Young at all but I know we definitely want to control the tempo of the game. They are big and strong and we'll have to use all five guys in there to keep them off the offensive glass. And we have to stop Ainge from getting the ball in a lot of open-court and fast-break situations."
Ainge, averaging 25 points per game, and Roberts, averaging 14, on 57 percent shooting, didn't have a field goal in the first half of the Notre Dame game. Notre Dame's John Paxson chased Ainge all night in a box-and-one defense and held the high-scoring guard to 12 points.
At a press conference today, Arnold couldn't help but ask Holland if he planned to try the same type of defense against Ainge Saturday.
Holland paused ever so slightly before replying, "It's definitely in our game plan, Frank, definitely."