It's a pretty safe bet that nobody has, and probably nobody will soon, play as good a defensive game against Maryland all-America Len Bias as Virginia's Andrew Kennedy did today.
"You should have seen us in the locker room after the game. We were thanking him. I was thanking him," Virginia center Olden Polynice said after the rousing 70-49 victory over Maryland. "I was our best defensive player. Today, I lost the title, okay? He played defense like it was meant to be played. He's our stopper now."
Bias, leading scorer in the ACC, made seven of 15 shots from the field and scored 19 of the toughest points of his life. Bias had one inside basket, in the third minute of the game, and that was the result of a three-on-one fast break. The other six came from 15 feet out, or farther, mostly when Virginia was in a zone defense.
"I don't think I'm a genius to say that our defense did the job today," Virginia Coach Terry Holland said. "Drew (Kennedy) was fantastic. Lenny Bias is superman. I don't see how a guy could play like he did for 40 minutes, but he does. As a human being, Drew did all he could do."
In addition, Kennedy made six of seven shots, totaled 16 points and had 10 rebounds. It has to be one of the most complete games of the season for any ACC player.
The Cavaliers might have gotten by without Kennedy's offense. But his defense set the game's tone.
"We attack them," Polynice said. "We were up by eight, and we said, 'Let's stop them and make it 10.' For 40 minutes, that's the most aggressive we've been in my three years here."
Asked if he had ever played defense that hard, Kennedy said, "Not that intense for 40 minutes. But when you have to do it, you have to. Bias is in a class by himself."
Virginia's philosophy, Kennedy said, was to "let Lenny take that 18- to 20-foot jumper. It's the lane you don't want him to have. We couldn't let him penetrate."
The entire defense was aware of Bias' every move. Holland even said, "We really ganged up on Lenny today." And Polynice admitted, "Every time Lenny came across the lane I'd give him a bump, Tom Sheehey'd give him a bump."
All the while, Kennedy was Bias' shadow. Kennedy, a long jumper and track man at Calabar High in Kingston, Jamaica, needed every bit of athleticism for today's endeavor.
It's no secret that if a team can stop Bias, it has a handle on beating Maryland. This was only the fourth time in 16 games Bias failed to reach 20 points this season.
"The toughest thing about guarding Bias," Kennedy said, "is that he does so much so well, and you don't know what he'll do from time to time. That's what separates him from the others.
"I just wanted to get to certain positions before he could. I know he loves the low post, and he likes to drive to the base line before he takes that pull-up jumper. After that, I just wanted to box him out when he does get a shot."
Often, the good defensive players are the ones who aren't a threat offensively. But that's not the case with Kennedy, who was Jamaica's national scoring champion, averaging 39.5 points his senior year.
Kennedy averaged 21.3 points last year at Amarillo Junior College.
"My coach there, Mark Nixon, loved defense," he said. "So my background has helped me love to play defense. I was more of an offensive machine coming out of high school.
"The first thing you have to do, when it comes to defense, is say to yourself, 'Hey, forget about the recognition and do your job.' You have to love doing it."
Holland said it was important for Kennedy to "find a niche, something he could do well initially, while gradually taking on more."
Polynice and Mel Kennedy (no relation) were two of the Virginia players who said that Drew Kennedy "thinks" so well defensively that it must help him.
Kennedy, a philosophy major who plans on going to medical school, was three-time student of the year at Calabar. Some of his thoughts about defense went far over the heads of his postgame listeners.
"Is he giving you that philosophical stuff again?" Polynice asked.