The only problems Georgia Tech gave Virginia last year during three Cavalier victories involved elbows and fists. But today, things were quiet under the boards in University Hall, and third-ranked Virginia prevailed, 79-60.
Virginia is 15-1 overall and 3-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Georgia Tech is 5-8 and 1-4.
Virginia center Ralph Sampson, who had 24 points today, and Georgia Tech center Lee Goza had several altercations last year. After their first meeting, Sampson claimed Goza spit on him. Today Coach Bobby Cremins held Goza out of the starting lineup. "I knew the crowd would be on him and I wanted him to relax a little and play his game, not the crowd's," Cremins said.
With Goza out, 6-foot-5 guard Brook Steppe was left covering Sampson and the Yellow Jackets weren't in a zone. Neither worked, as Sampson made 11 of 14 shots from the floor and had a game-high 14 rebounds.
"It's awkward to prepare for him because there's not much you can do," Cremins said. Georgia Tech's taller players are "just not good enough" to cover Sampson, Cremins said.
Tim Mullen backed Sampson with 14 points and played good defense against Steppe, the ACC's leading scorer at 18 points per game. Steppe had 13 today, only four in the first half, and was five of 12 from the floor.
"I just played him straight up," Mullen, a freshman, said. "All the coaches said was, don't help out (covering other players ) as much as I usually do. He's a real good straight shooter and if he had them (his good shots), he would have drilled them all night."
Virginia came out fast and led by 15 points with 9:43 left in the first half. Georgia Tech responded poorly to the pressure defense, and Virginia had success with its fast break and offensive rebounding.
Georgia Tech finished with six more turnovers than Virginia (19-13); the Cavaliers had nine more rebounds (34-25).