Who needs Ralph Sampson, anyway?
The University of Virginia's seventh-ranked basketball team has won all three of its games this season, and its all-America center hasn't been the high scorer yet.
In tonight's 76-57 victory over George Mason in the final of the Cavalier Invitational, Sampson failed to score in the first half and ended with eight points. It didn't really matter.
The Cavaliers proved once again they have a balanced offense and plenty of depth in winning their 21st straight game at University Hall.
In an opening 63-61 victory over Brigham Young, Othell Wilson led Virginia with 16 points and Sampson had 13. In Friday night's 107-66 rout of Fairfield, Tim Mullen and Craig Robinson led the way with 16 points and, again, Sampson had 13.
Another scoring threat emerged for the Cavaliers tonight in freshman Jim Miller, who scored 16 points. Jeff Jones scored 15 points and Robinson, voted the tournament's most valuable player, had 13.
"I didn't even expect to make the all-tournament team," Sampson said after being informed he finished fifth in the voting. "I certainly didn't play well enough."
Sampson made only three of 10 field goal attempts, but had a game-high 16 rebounds and blocked three shots in 23 minutes.
"I played my role," the 7-foot-4 center said. "The ball didn't come inside that much. I played defense, got rebounds and tried to make the offense run smoothly."
Coach Terry Holland said Sampson hasn't recovered from a pulled groin muscle incurred in preseason drills.
"I think Ralph is still showing the effects of his injury," Holland said. "He missed two weeks just before our opener and I think his timing is still off. He also hasn't quite got the feeling of the new guys.
"In the long run it will help us to have games like this," the coach continued. "The more the young players can prove themselves, the easier it will be for Ralph later on. Then he'll know he doesn't have to do it all."
Any thought that the upstart Patriots might challenge Virginia in its own field house was quickly erased when the Cavaliers scored the first six points andtook a 17-3 lead after 7 1/2 minutes. Miller, who had nine points against Fairfield, scored six straight points on two short jumpers and a follow shot.
At that point, Holland had three freshman -- Miller, Mullen and Kenny Johnson -- in the lineup.
Sampson picked up two fouls in the first 98 seconds and was replaced by Kenton Edelin, a 6-7 sophomore from Hayfield High School, who finished with five points and four rebounds. Sampson was in and out of the lineup throughout the first half, taking only three shots.
Andre Gaddy, the Patriots' 6-10 center, was expected to battle Sampson underneath, but rarely touched the ball in the first 10 minutes as Virginia's 2-3 zone collapsed around him.
Gaddy took his first shot at 10:03, scoring after getting an offensive rebound. He finished with 17 points.
Jones, who made all four shots from the floor in the first half, went the length of the court for a basket, then after Robinson's power move made another twisting drive. Yates and Gaddy scored for George Mason, which trailed, 27-16.
George Mason's Andy Bolden, the game's top scorer with 19 points, scored from the top of the key and scored again on a fast break. After Gaddy's two free throws, Virginia's lead was reduced to 32-22, but the Patriots never got any closer.
"We got off to a shaky start, but we were able to settle down and play them reasonably well after that," said George Mason Coach Joe Harrington. "We've never played a nationally ranked team before and this experience will help us down the road."