The reaction to Ralph Sampson's elbows proved so sharp that Virginia Coach Terry Holland considered holding Sampson out of tonight's championship game of the Times-Dispatch Tournament.
Holland and Sampson sat down today and Sampson persuaded his coach that there would be no repeat of Wednesday's shabby performance.
"I told him I wanted to play and that I thought we would win," Sampson said. "I told him, 'You'll see a difference in my play.' "
Then Sampson went out and got 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots to earn tournament MVP honors as the Cavaliers thrashed Old Dominion, 75-59, for their 28th straight success against intrastate rivals.
"I was so teed off with the way things went last night (in a 102-85 victory over Richmond) that I considered not playing him," Holland said. "I sat down with him and talked about keeping things cool. He had a very fine game tonight and he didn't get a lot of breaks out there."
Sampson's domination of Mark West, Old Dominion's highly regarded 6-10 center, virtually decided the outcome in the first five minutes. West netted a free throw that gave the Monarchs their last lead at 3-2 and it proved to be his only point of a dreadful first half in which he was charged with five turnovers, three personal fouls and two technicals.
One of the technicals was for touching the rim on an unsuccessful Alley Oop try. The other involved the only real incident of a game that lacked the football tactics and verbal exchanges of the Richmond contest.
West elbowed Sampson under the Virginia basket and Sampson fell. He rose and charged toward West, then permitted himself to be headed off. There was no contact and West was assessed a technical as well as a personal foul. Holland temporarily removed Sampson from the game.
"When I went down, I thought it was intentional," Sampson said. "I was undercut by one guy and the other one knocked me with an elbow. Emotions are always involved in a basketball game, but there was never any intention to fight. In my head, I want to keep everything clean, not mean.
"I was upset by last night and the publicity it generated. We're not that kind of a team and we didn't really appreciate it. We play good, hard basketball. We want to play fair and square. We don't play with elbows."
Sampson's dominance of West was the key in a Virginia surge that turned the 3-2 deficit into a 13-3 lead. Old Dominion, shut out for almost four minutes, never got closer than seven points thereafter.
Craig Robinson, called for three offensive fouls in the first four minutes, started the Cavaliers' streak with a follow of a missed shot. Then Othell Wilson, the game's assist leader with five, made it 6-3 on a jump shot that followed Rick Carlisle's steal from West.
West was called for charging Sampson, then Carlisle made the technical free throw when West yanked the rim. With West intimidated and confused, Sampson capitalized for two straight baskets, on a skyhook and a jumper from the key.
An air ball by West at the other end was followed by Tim Mullen's fast-break basket for a 13-3 lead.
Old Dominion managed to hover within striking distance until the last five minutes, when a nine-point Virginia streak blew it open at 73-53.
West, who fouled out with two minutes left, got seven points and 13 rebounds. He had been averaging 18 points. The Monarchs, 48 percent shooters in their four victories, made only 36 percent tonight.
"It's easier for any big guy to play against another big guy," Holland said in explanation of Sampson's success against West. "I know it sounds crazy, but when you have small guys under your feet, it can mess you up.
"I hope everyone will recognize the job Ralph did out there tonight. Last night was the exception, because he really does a tremendous job controlling himself under considerable provocation."
Virginia (10-1) will be idle until it visits Maryland Jan. 8.
"The toughest team for us in the conference is the University of Maryland," Holland said. "They're our next game and they've played us two tough overtime games."