Virginia did defeat Virginia Commonwealth, 69-63, tonight to win the championship of the Cavalier Invitational before a sellout of 9,000 at University Hall.
Ralph Sampson did get 12 points, nine rebounds, four blocked shots and the tournament's most valuable player award. Othell Wilson did score 17 points, did make the all-tournament team and did pass prettily. This was the Cavaliers' 33rd straight home victory, tying a school record set back in 1916. And, yes, Virginia is still No. 1 in the land.
With 3:04 left to play, however, pesky Virginia Commonwealth had rallied to 61-54, having once trailed by 16 points. And No. 1 Virginia appeared to be in danger of taking a fall.
"We were thinking about the respect we could get if we beat Virginia," said Virginia Commonwealth freshman forward Michael Brown, who scored 19 points.
"I don't think they (Virginia) respected us at all," said Calvin Duncan, the Virginia Commonwealth guard who scored 20 tonight, 18 in the second half. Both Duncan and Brown were on the all-tournament team.
"They had control," said Virginia forward Jim Miller.
Then, Wilson sank a long-range jumper and a tap-in and Sampson blocked two shots and made two free throws. The lead was back to 10. The Cavaliers, shooting 67 percent, improved to 2-0 as Wilson dribbled away the final eight seconds.
In the consolation game, George Mason had an easier time, defeating Johns Hopkins, 96-58. Andy Bolden scored 26 points and Carlos Yates scored 25. Yates was voted to the all-tournament team.
Virginia should have had an easy game after leading, 33-18, at the half, 18-2 seven minutes into the game. "We should have put it into overdrive and blown them out of the gym," Sampson said. "Instead, we just stayed in drive."
As Coach Terry Holland kept talking about so much second-half impatience by his players -- VCU outscored Virginia, 45-36, that half -- Othell Wilson was rationalizing this way: "If you can play less than your best and still win, it shows you have a good team."
VCU, which defeated George Mason, 78-67, in the first round, rallied behind the the wizardry of guard Duncan. His repertoire was marvelously varied. Short jumpers, challenging Sampson. Plenty of moves, too. He made things close. But Virginia wouldn't fall.
"We're not ready to go into high gear yet," Sampson said.
"I think we'll get some respect now," said Brown, VCU's freshman forward.
George Mason looked very ready against Johns Hopkins, the Division III team that lost, 124-60, to Virginia in the first round.
Bolden and Yates, the team's two former East Coast Athletic Conference South rookies of the year, were impressive. Bolden, a junior guard, made 13 of 16 shots (21 of 29 in the tournament) and said, "I'm happy, but I'm not content with the way I've been playing."
Yates, a sophomore forward, made nine of 12 from the field, seven of 10 from the line. "I was on," he admitted.
George Mason (1-1) used a full-court that caused Johns Hopkins to have 33 turnovers, 20 in the second half when the Patriots outscored the 0-2 Blue Jays, 51-24. "We wanted to force their tempo," said Yates.
George Mason Coach Joe Harrington said, "We had a better fast break, we ran our offense better and we rebounded better. We're still young and inexperienced."