Virginia won two football games last fall; Richmond was unable to win any. The reason became obvious tonight. The schools' most qualified prospects are playing basketball.
In a rough and tumbling battle that saw tempers as large as Ralph Sampson's come unhinged, the Cavaliers thumped the Spiders, 102-85, in the first round of the Times-Dispatch Tournament.
Virginia will play undefeated Old Dominion, a 90-85 winner over Virginia Commonwealth, in Thursday night's final.
The Virginia-Richmond contest was marred by 54 personal fouls, 30 in the first half. When the Cavaliers were able to shoot, however, they did very well, making 40 of 65.
With the back line of Richmond's 2-3 zone pinching on Sampson, the Virginia forwards frequently found themselves wide open. Tim Mullen made all six of his shots for 12 points and Jim Miller sank seven of 10 to lead Virginia with 19.
Sampson scored the first basket, then suffered through an hellacious first half in which he managed only three more points, all on free throws, and grabbed two rebounds. He finished with 18 points and five rebounds, but it was his outbursts of temper that drew the most notice.
The first sign of anger came when Sampson was called for goaltending on an off-target shot by John Newman. He carried the ball to the scorer's table, glaring at the official all the while, before releasing it.
After Sampson lost the ball, Richmond scored again, to pull to 27-20. Then, at the other end, he pushed defender Bill Flye and followed the push with an elbow. Neither foul was called, despite pleas from the Richmond bench, but Sampson finally delivered such a flagrant elbow that Flye staggered back to the base line. Despite the protests of Richmond Coach Dick Tarrant, who wanted an intentional foul called, the Spiders only got the ball out of bounds.
"It was uncalled for; I had had it," Sampson said of the episode.
"We were pushing back and forth; I guess his was more blatant," Flye said. "I enjoyed the challenge. I wanted to get him frustrated, to get him out of his game. Last year (in a 74-43 loss) we stood and stared at them. Tonight we knew what to expect and we played more our game."
Sampson never was able to get into his, though. When a foul was called on another of his tormentors, Pat DiServio, Sampson clapped loudly. When Sampson's tap-in was disallowed for reaching over Flye, he gave the official a thumb.
In the second half, Sampson tackled little Greg Beckwith as both pursued a loose ball. Later, he elbowed DiServio out of bounds and drew his fourth foul. Coach Terry Holland then withdrew him from the game.
Earlier, Holland had removed Othell Wilson, after Wilson was assessed a technical foul for protesting a personal called against him.
"I was concerned about guys reacting to some of the things going on out there and I was afraid somebody might get hurt, so that's why I took some of them out," Holland said.
"I think it was a very average game in terms of roughness. They were playing Ralph physically, but nothing more than what a lot of guys have done. He's a target every night. For Ralph Sampson not to retaliate as much as he has over the years is incredible."
Tarrant was unhappy with the Virginia players.
"They have such wonderful talent, I wonder why they have to finger point and jive talk and that stuff," Tarrant said. "My kids weren't saying much complimentary about Virginia after that game."