Ralph Sampson has had many great games in his four years at Virginia--at least great enough to win national player-of-the-year honors the past two seasons.
None of those games has come against Maryland.
Lefty Driesell and his Terrapins would like to continue that pattern today in Charlottesville when Maryland plays second-ranked Virginia at 2 p.m. (WDVM-TV-9) in Sampson's final game at University Hall.
"I don't know how the last home game will feel," Sampson said recently. "I remember how emotional the last game was for some other seniors, like Jeff Lamp, Lee Raker and Jeff Jones.
"I suppose (the postgame ceremony) will mean more to my mother. I've got enough to do to think about Maryland."
Sampson, 7 feet 4, has averaged 16.7 points and 11.5 rebounds over his career, but only 11.7 points and 8.9 rebounds against Maryland in eight games. Sampson has never even scored 20 points against the Terrapins. His best game came as a sophomore, when he scored 17 points and had 11 rebounds.
In two of the last three games, Maryland has held Sampson to single figures in scoring and rebounding.
Maryland is 4-4 against Virginia in the Sampson years. Only North Carolina has a better record (6-4). Of Virginia's two defeats against 49 victories at University Hall in the Sampson years, Maryland has one of them, in 1980.
How has Maryland done it, especially without a true center? "I can't tell you, it's a secret," Driesell said yesterday.
Actually, it's not much of a secret. In Sampson's first two years, Driesell put 6-8 Buck Williams in back of Sampson and 6-7 Ernest Graham in front. Williams was extremely physical, often using his knee against Sampson's rear end and his elbows in Sampson's sides.
Lately, 6-9 Mark Fothergill has been the principal defender. Today, it is likely Sampson will be surrounded by Fothergill and 6-9 Ben Coleman.
Everyone in Charlottesville seems aware that Sampson has never played that well against Maryland. All week, there have been signs around the city, counting down the days until Maryland arrives.
"I ain't scared of the signs in the Piggly Wigglys down there," Driesell said. "It's gonna be a war."
Driesell was asked if he got a bigger kick out of beating North Carolina and Dean Smith, or Sampson and Virginia.
"It's about the same," Driesell said. "We hate 'em all, every one of our opponents."
There is plenty at stake for Virginia, besides the pride of having Sampson win his finale at home. The Cavaliers must win if they are to finish tied with North Carolina for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Maryland, win or lose, will be the third seed in next week's ACC tournament. North Carolina State's victory over Wake Forest yesterday assured that.
But an upset would put the Terrapins in third place alone and give Maryland its 20th victory of the year.
Maryland usually does its best work in these nationally televised games in which the Terrapins are usually very much the underdog; games in which Driesell can use his favorite means of motivation: revenge.
Virginia routed Maryland, 83-64, at Cole Field House in January, in a game from which Sampson should have been ejected with four technical fouls. Instead, through an oversight, he continued to play and led a second-half rally.