When Ralph Sampson, Virginia's 7-foot-4 all-America, backed into and over 6-0 teammate Othell Wilson and banked in a shot, one of the hundreds of spectators at the open practices at the Spectrum today yelled, "Foul, three shots."
Virginia raced through its one-hour session in black uniforms that made the Cavaliers resemble the bad guys. And Sampson, the man most tems love to hate, was being only a little aggressive to retain that fine edge he knows he'll need for Saturday's 3:08 p.m. NCAA semifinal game against ACC rival North Carolina.
Cavalier Coach Terry Holland and North Carolina Coach Dean Smith ran their teams through rugged workouts. In contrast, Indiana and Louisiana State, who meet in the first semifinal at 12:45, breezed through light practices.
"You would think they (Virginia-North Carolina) might take it easy the day before their biggest game of the year," said Terry Walker, who with his brother Jackie skipped work to watch the final four teams. "But they mean business.
"It would be a shame if someone got hurt going through this senseless torture. You only dive for loose balls when you are trying to make the team or in a game. And then only in the last two minutes."
Sampson didn't dive to the wood, but exerted enough energy and threw down enough dunks to impress the crowd. Even Cavalier forward Lee Raker, still hampered by calcium deposits on a badly bruised left thigh, ran fairly hard in the full-court drills.
Holland said Raker's leg hasn't improved, but he will play as much as he can. But Holland is more worried about the Tar Heel front line, described by some observers as the best in the nation.
"They have three front-court players -- James Worthy, Al Wood and Sam Perkins -- who will be No. 1 draft picks," said Holland. "No other team can say that."
The Tar Heel Three versus Sampson was a major topic of conversation, as was the Ethan Martin (LSU)-Isaiah Thomas (Indiana) matchup at point guard.
"This is going to be some tournament, good enough to set Philly on fire this weekend," said practice-watcher John Mitakowsky, who said he was hoping for a Virginia-Indiana final.
"No one can stop Ralph when he wants to play. And I believe he'll show off this weekend. Look at his face: he's dead-serious out there. Smith has gone to the final four five times and never won, hasn't he? Well, make that six times because Carolina ain't beating Virginia."
For more than five hours the Spectrum floor resembled the center ring of a Barnun and Bailey spectacle. Electricians and maintenance personnel scurried around trying to make everything perfect for the NCAAs final basketball hurrah of the season. Television and radio technicians were hooking up equipment, and photographers -- both working press and spectators -- snapped everything that moved.
The relaxed LSU players agreeably posed for pictures.
There wasn't a ticket to be bought here, but fans seemed satisfied watching practice.
"Free, baby. You can't beat that," said high schooler Alvin Hollins. "I've seen them work today and I'll catch the big show on TV tomorrow. Hey, I hope you're not a local news reporter. My teacher might see my name and know I cut class.
"This would have been a good field trip. This is better than going to the museum, don't you think?"