The new rules that speed up Atlantic Coast Conference basketball weren't the only excitement at Cole Field House last night. Tempers got out of hand early in the second half, and Virginia's Ralph Sampson was assessed two technical fouls as the teams nearly came to blows.
But the Cavaliers, ranked No. 4 in the nation, kept their composure and took advantage of the faster-paced game in their 83-64 victory over Maryland before 14,500 fans.
The Terrapins will have a hard time winning any time sophomore Adrian Branch shoots as poorly as he did last night. Branch, who came into the game leading the ACC in scoring with 21.3 points per game on 53 percent shooting, made only two of 15 shots from the field and finished with a season-low seven points.
Whenever Maryland (7-3, 0-1 in the ACC) got within striking distance, it seemed Branch or center Ben Coleman missed a shot. Coleman, a 58 percent shooter, made only three of 12 from the field, even though most of his shots came from within the lane.
"We wanted to work a two-man game," said Branch, "Ben inside and me outside. But I didn't hold up my end . . . looked pretty bad out there. They crowded me real well. I thought I'd shake out of it."
Coach Lefty Driesell, when asked about Branch's poor performance, said, "Othell Wilson just ate him up, that's all."
Wilson led Virginia (11-1, 2-0) with 21 points and ran the Cavaliers fast break to perfection. He also helped calm down Sampson, who remained in the game to score 14 points and grab 15 rebounds.
Virginia took a 7-0 lead and never trailed. Maryland, after shooting 55 percent, shot 23 percent in the second half. The Terrapins went 5:19 without scoring midway through the second half. Freshman Len Bias and sophomore Jeff Adkins scored 10 points each for the Terrapins.
Most of the postgame analysis did not center around play by play, but on the wild melee that centered around Sampson.
With 16:37 left in the game, Sampson was fouled by Coleman underneath the Maryland basket, as Coleman went for an offensive rebound. Sampson got off the floor in a rage and swung an elbow, which Bias said hit him in the jaw.
Sampson charged the officials and received one technical and, after slamming the ball off the floor, was assessed another.Another technical (for throwing an elbow) was signaled, but only two of the three were assessed. After the game, Sampson said, "I think it takes three technicals to get ejected."
Sampson had to be restrained by Wilson and Craig Robinson. And the teams began taunting and moving closer to each other. Maryland Assistant Coach Mel Cartwright had to be physically restrained.
Accusations, all unconfirmed, flew. Driesell said the officials had tossed Sampson out of the game, then let him back. "They're gutless," Driesell said of the officials. "The ACC commissioner will hear from me."
Virginia Coach Terry Holland, according to observers near the scorers' table, threatened to pull his team off the floor if Sampson was ejected.
One official, Lenny Wirtz, came over to the press table during the confusion and said a player is ejected only if the technical fouls are flagrant. Sampson had six points at the time of the technicals.
Holland and Sampson were exceptionally upset afterward. "Look at the films night after night, and you'll find Ralph takes an unnecessary beating," Holland said. "I think he has done a very good job maintaining his composure."
Sampson said, "I am keeping my cool the best I can. But it's going to get worse. Somebody will get hurt. The officials have got to call the game closer inside. Other teams figure they can just beat on me and get away with it. Tonight, I got submarined, hit in the mouth and everything else. And when I try to give it back, they catch me."
Robinson said, "This is definitely the most excited I've ever seen Ralph. I just wanted to keep him away from everybody."
Branch made both technical foul shots to pull the Terrapins within 51-42. But Virginia wasn't bothered by the distraction and, as Sampson said, "we took it to them and blew them out."
Holland and most of the Cavaliers contended that Maryland purposely tried to start a fracas to make Virginia, especially Sampson, lose poise. They said Maryland, without the option to play the slowdown game, needed a gimmick.
"Last year, they did something similar and we lost our cool," Wilson said. We needed a cool-headed game. That's the way we play best."
Said Holland: "Last year, Branch hit Jimmy Miller in the face with an elbow and Miller picked up a technical foul and things got out of hand. It worked last year, I can tell you that."