Ralph Sampson scored 25 points on 12-for-13 shooting to lead Virginia to a 12-point halftime lead and his teammates took over in the second half in an 89-75 victory over Wake Forest in an Atlantic Coast Conference game tonight.
Virginia (18-2) moved into second place in the ACC with a 6-1 record; Wake Forest (13-5), which has lost three in a row after an 11-1 start, is 4-2. Virginia has won six in a row since losing to top-ranked North Carolina last month.
Sampson finished as the leading scorer with 30 points, He also had 12 rebounds and three blocks, but sat out most of the second half because of foul trouble.
He got his third and fourth fouls in just 33 seconds and Coach Terry Holland was forced to replace him with Kenton Edelin. Edelin filled in well with eight rebounds and two blocks until the 7-foot-4 center returned with 6:56 to go.
"Ralph was awesome in the first half. I don't think I've ever seen him play better," said Holland. "The second half was perhaps more important, though, in terms of our team development.
"We have great confidence in our other players, like Edelin, Craig Robinson and Dan Merrifield. They've been doing the job for us, but it didn't always show up in the box score. Tonight, they saved us with Ralph on the bench."
Their efforts almost weren't needed. Sampson nearly beat the Deacons by himself with a superb effort despite a combination of defenses and tough individual play by Anthony Teachey and Alvis Rogers.
Teachey (21 points) made four perimeter jumpers in an attempt to pull away Sampson from the basket, but each time Wake would score Sampson responded in kind. Finally, the Deacons cracked when Sampson scored three straight jumpers to give Virginia a 30-24 lead with 8:15 left in the first half.
Wake often sagged three players in hopes of stopping Sampson. When it did, he merely passed off to open teammates, who made easy jumpers on the way to a 53-41 halftime lead.
Sampson was playing so well that seemingly he was limited only by himself. His exuberance found him a seat on the bench next to Holland when he got his fourth foul.
This was clearly Wake's chance: Without Sampson, Virginia was beatable.
But, said Edelin, "We played well without Ralph and that's not easy to do. Wake tried to get the ball inside since was Ralph was on the bench, but Craig Robinson and the rest of us just didn't let them.
Point guard Othell Wilson also got in foul trouble for Virginia. Ricky Stokes took over for the Cavaliers, getting five assists as Virginia stayed ahead until Sampson and Wilson returned with 6:56 to go.
With Virginia leading, 71-61, Sampson scored on a dunk. Merrifield got a fast-break layup, Carlisle made a jumper and Wilson scored on three long jumpers, including two three-pointers that finished the Deacons with an 84-70 lead with 2:26 remaining.