Virginia got even last night.
From start to finish, the second-ranked Cavaliers dominated Notre Dame, embarrassing the Irish, 87-54, before 17,422 at Capital Centre. The victory and its margin were especially sweet for Virginia because it was Notre Dame that ended the Cavaliers' 28-game winning streak last year with a dramatic 57-56 victory in suburban Chicago.
Virginia players said there were no impassioned speeches beforehand, only Jeff Jones, the captain, looking quietly at teammates in the locker room and saying, "We owe them one."
Then the Cavaliers (12-0) went out and played as if they owed the Irish a dozen. They took a 6-0 lead before Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps even had a chance to slow the pace, a tactic he used with some success against Kentucky, taking the Wildcats into overtime before losing, 34-28.
Leading, 20-14, midway through the half, Virginia went on a 14-0 streak, helped by Phelps' poorly timed technical foul, which created a six-point play. From then on, only the margin of victory was in doubt.
"There really isn't that much to say," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "We got good play at every position, even off the bench. Obviously, Notre Dame is struggling."
Struggling is a nice word for the 2-8 Irish. Last night they shot 44 percent and would not have done that well if John Paxson, the game's high scorer with 21 points, had not made 10 of 18, many of them forced because his teammates couldn't have hit the Golden Dome were they sitting atop it.
In stark contrast, Virginia shot 74 percent the second half, 64 percent for the game. It got points from 12 players, with Ralph Sampson, who reluctantly went to the bench after 27 minutes, leading the way with 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Sampson made it look easy, virtually ignoring double- and triple-teaming and dominating the rebounding.
"I didn't want to come out because it was the kind of game where you could get a lot of shots and do a lot of things," Sampson said, smiling. "But when you're 20 points ahead, you have to come out and give the other guys a chance."
The Cavaliers were 20 points ahead before the game was 17 minutes old and it was 38-20 at halftime. Paxson single-handedly tried to make a game of it early in the second half, sinking four tough jumpers, the last closing the gap to 43-32 with 15:31 left, but the Cavaliers went to Sampson.
First, he made a free throw, then he muscled between three men for a short bank shot. Othell Wilson missed and Sampson jumped high in putting in the follow. That made it 47-32. A minute later, Sampson and Jones worked an alley-oop, Sampson jamming the ball to make it 51-34. Two minutes later, he came out to let the other Cavaliers have some fun.
They did. Wilson had 12 points and five assists, Jones had six assists. Again the freshmen, Jim Miller (12 points) and Tim Mullen (10), played well. And Dan Merrifield came in late to get nine points in five minutes.
"They're a very good, very talented team," Phelps said. "We had hoped for a slower pace, but they made that impossible. Sampson is a great player, that's pretty apparent."
Holland had worried a little that, with this week's game of the century coming up Saturday at North Carolina, his players might be a little flat against the struggling Irish.
"Since before the season this is the game I've pointed for," Jones said. "I think all of us who played in the game last year felt that way. (Orlando) Woolridge made a great shot to beat us, but we gave them that game. Revenge was definitely on my mind tonight."
And revenge is just what the Cavaliers got.