College basketball's two best big men, Ralph Sampson of Virginia and Patrick Ewing of Georgetown, were involved in ugly, emotional incidents in separate games Saturday that outraged their coaches. But opposing players and coaches say Ewing and Sampson want preferential treatment.

"Ralph threw some elbows himself that should have gotten him kicked out of the game," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said yesterday. "If he complained about the play last night, wait until he gets in the NBA. Let him throw elbows like that next year in the NBA and he'll get his head split open."

Sampson, 7 feet 4, was assessed two technical fouls and could have picked up a third when he vehemently complained of being unnecessarily roughed by Maryland at Cole Field House. Virginia won despite the problems, 83-64.

Ewing, 7 feet, got into one fight at St. John's and was physically restrained from another after feeling he had taken too many elbows and cheap shots around the basket from smaller players. Georgetown lost, 76-67, at Madison Square Garden.

Terry Holland, Sampson's coach, said after the game the battering Sampson takes night after night is ludicrous and said officials should tighten calls on physical inside play.

John Thompson, Ewing's coach, said if the "mauling" continues, he will advise Ewing, a sophomore, to turn professional.

Maryland center Ben Coleman said, "I can't believe Sampson is complaining now. What's he going to do when he plays the Bullets and Rick Mahorn (6-9, 240 pounds) sets some picks and knock him into row Q?"

Kevin Williams, a 6-3 guard for St. John's, aggressively bumped Ewing several times and eventually suffered a split lip from a Ewing jab.

"To beat Georgetown," Williams said, "all we've got to do is get Ewing upset and he'll punch somebody and some ref is going to have enough heart to throw him out. He should have been thrown out for punching me in the mouth. I was just doing my job."

The problems arise as a result of the immense talent of Sampson and Ewing. Opposing teams without talented big men try various ways to neutralize them--and among the easiest is to jostle, bump, and elbow them into frustration. That frustration, on Sampson's part, led to mass confusion and a near brawl at Cole Field House.

With 17 minutes remaining, referee Len Wirtz said Sampson was fouled by Coleman. On the same play, Joe Forte called a player-control foul against Sampson for throwing an elbow at Len Bias.

Sampson didn't know the elbowing foul called against him was overruled and thought it was a technical. Fred Barakat, the ACC's supervisor of officials, said yesterday Forte did not assess a technical. Sampson charged Forte at midcourt and then picked up his first technical foul.

Sampson, after being restrained by teammates Othell Wilson and Craig Robinson, ran to a neutral corner of the court, slammed the ball off the ground and picked up a second technical, from official Lou Moser.

All three officials then went to the official scorer's table to try to calm both teams, which by this time were dangerously close to fighting. Barakat said the officials had their backs turned when Sampson ran to the bench and crashed his foot into a chair.

"A third technical foul should have been called when Ralph kicked the chair," said Barakat, who watched the game live on television and has reviewed it on tape. "If (the officials) had seen that, (they) would have given him a third technical and he would have been out of the game."

Driesell said after the game the officials had already called three technicals and were "gutless" to back down.

Sampson said the officials told him he was receiving one technical for throwing the intentional elbow and another for screaming at Forte.

Barakat insisted the officials did not back down from a third technical and they did not cater to Holland's warning to take his team off the floor if the game turned into a brawl.

Holland issued a statement yesterday, saying, "What I told the officials was to clean it up or I would be willing to take my team off the floor. I did not want it to continue as it was, but my remarks had nothing to do with Ralph's technicals."

Sampson said he should have kept his composure, but that he was "submarined, elbowed and everything else."

Maryland forward Herman Veal, an aggressive defensive player, was asked if Sampson wants too much protection. "I don't know what he wants specifically," Veal said. "But this game wasn't that physical. We've had rougher games this year. We've had rougher games against Virginia than this."

Still, Barakat assigned three of the most respected referees in the nation to officiate this particular game.

"I put those three guys on that game on purpose," he said. "But we were asking three officials to try to control guys who had foam coming out of their mouths," Barakat said.

Barakat said that he does see more fouls against players like Sampson and Ewing, compared with past years.

"We make no interpretations on the protection of a superstar," he said. "As much as you might hear this from Ewing's coach and Sampson's coach, the other coaches are screaming 'protection' on the other side. It's in the eye of the beholder.

"When you have that talented big player, you want to try and protect him. When you don't have him, it's the other way around."

The ACC, which has long had the reputation being whistle-happy, made a conscious decision recently to officiate more leniently, Barakat said.

Holland said he was reluctant to complain to ACC officials because he had in the past to little avail. "They'll just say I'm full of bull. But they have to do something."

Said Barakat: "We're trying not to call touch fouls. We're trying to take a realistic approach. Is there an advantage gained by contact?

"Now, we can change in an instant if they (the coaches) want it called closer inside. But I don't think that's what the fans or the coaches or players want. We can go 'beep, beep, beep' every minute."

Top-ranked Indiana lost for the first time this season, 70-67 to Ohio State Saturday night in a Big Ten game at Columbus, Ohio. "I can't ever remember having a team outrebound another by 17 and losing," said Indiana Coach Bob Knight.

"I told our kids when we came in here that we couldn't try to beat them at the free-throw line," Knight said. Ohio State was 22 for 25 from the line.

Indiana's loss will probably boost No. 2 Memphis State into the top spot. And it also moved Northwestern (11-1, 2-0) into first place in the Big Ten. The Wildcats defeated Michigan State, 62-51, Saturday night in Chicago where they will play No. 8 Iowa on Thursday night.

No. 5 Alabama, after losing its first two conference game, upset No. 3 Kentucky, 74-67, in a Southeastern Conference victory.

The only other top 10 team to lose was Syracuse, which was routed by North Carolina, 87-64, in Charlotte. It was the first defeat for the Orangemen, who play Georgetown tonight in the Carrier Dome.