HONOLULU, DEC. 24 -- Terry Holland sat, legs crossed, a smile on his face this afternoon, moments after his Virginia basketball team had destroyed Georgia, 87-54, in the Chaminade Christmas Classic. A passer-by paused a moment as he passed Holland. "Always another day isn't there Terry?" he said.
Holland grinned. "Thank God," he answered emphatically.
Twenty-four hours ago, Holland and the Cavaliers left Blaisdell Arena shell-shocked. They had suffered the worst defeat in Holland's 14 seasons at Virginia, a 109-61 embarrassment at the hands of an overpowering Oklahoma team, which crushed Dayton, 151-99, in today's opening game.
"We went back to the hotel and Coach Holland called a meeting in my room," team captain John Johnson said. "He didn't scream or yell. He didn't have to. But everyone talked. All the coaches, then all the players. We all did a lot of soul-searching in there. Some people cried and that was good. It was what we needed."
Apparently. The Cavaliers (5-5) emerged from the two-hour meeting emotionally drained, but far more ready to play than they had been on Wednesday. Today, they jumped on Georgia (6-3) right from the beginning, opening a 14-7 lead in the first eight minutes. The Bulldogs pulled to within 14-11, but with their best player, Willie Anderson, on the bench with two fouls, they quickly began to fade during the last 10 minutes of the half.
"Our team is just a little bit tired," said Georgia Coach Hugh Durham, whose team stopped here en route home from Japan. "We depend an awful lot on Willie. When he isn't clicking on all cylinders, we aren't the same team."
That is putting it mildly. Anderson, a skinny 6-foot-7 senior guard, brings back memories of George Gervin. He is that smooth and shoots that often when he is on a roll. Today, he finished with 18 points -- four of them in the last minute -- but shot just eight for 22 from the field. He also made four turnovers.
Virginia, which got good play from no one against Oklahoma, had a number of key people come through today. The most significant one was Mel Kennedy, who was one for 11 against Oklahoma in his season debut after sitting out the Cavaliers' first eight games because of academic problems. Today, Kennedy made his first two shots, got into a groove and ended with 20 points (eight-for-14 field goal shooting), six rebounds and zero turnovers (eight less than he had against Oklahoma).
Kennedy had plenty of help, too. Johnson was his old poised self, running the offense with 17 points and six assists; Richard Morgan had 15 points and 12 Cavaliers scored.
"The second half against Oklahoma was the most helpless feeling I've ever had as a coach," Holland said. "I thought it was never going to end. When we met with the kids, we just told them that something had to change today. Our mental approach had to be different. That kind of meeting can work two ways. It can bring you back together or it can lead to things unraveling completely. Fortunately for us, it worked the right way."
Perhaps seeing the score of the opening game today gave the Cavaliers a boost. Oklahoma humiliated Dayton, proving the Sooners' margin of victory against Virginia was not a fluke. "I thought Dayton played about twice as well as we did," Holland said. "And Oklahoma just kept pounding them."
The best example of the Sooners' explosiveness came with two minutes left in the first half. Dayton had close to within 12 and was on the foul line. the free throw missed. Twenty seconds later, Oklahoma's lead was 20. The halftime score was 72-46. That represented the most points Dayton had ever given up in a half. The record last until Oklahoma scored 79 in the second half.
Stacey King led the Sooners (9-0) with 31 points, followed by Harvey Grant with 24 and Ricky Grace with 21. For the second straight night, Oklahoma's full-court pressure produced 16 steals. "In terms of athletic talent, they're in a class by themselves," said Dayton Coach Don Donoher, whose team's record fell to 7-2. "They have two great post players and it seems like all their perimeter player can shoot the three-pointer."
Georgia is a wholly different animal than Oklahoma, as Virginia was delighted to find today. Stop Anderson and you stop the Bulldogs. With him on the bench, the Cavaliers pushed their early 14-11 margin to 37-19 by halftime. Georgia tried to press as Oklahoma had, but the Cavaliers handled the pressure with ease and got numerous easy baskets.
"We just didn't do a good job against the press yesterday," Kennedy said. "I was inbounding and I didn't feel comfortable doing that. Today, I came to the ball off the inbounds and then I was able to move it to the right places. It just worked a lot better."
That was about the only change Holland made. The rest was mental. "I think we may have been expecting Mel to do too much yesterday," Johnson said. "It was his first game back and we were just expecting him to come in and solve all our problems inside. That probably wasn't fair."
Ironically, Holland said, playing the worst game of his career Wednesday, "Mel was one of our better players. But today it was obvious he felt a lot more comfortable."
Everyone in orange was comfortable today and it could not have come at a better time. "No one on this team, player or coach had ever been through anything as embarrassing as what happened," Johnson said. "We're lucky we didn't have a day off so we could come back and play and turn the thing around. I'm awful glad we did."
He wasn't alone. It was in this building, five years ago that then top-ranked Virginia, led by Ralph Sampson was stunned by Chaminade in perhaps the greatest upset in college basketball history. Wednesday was Holland's first time back in this arena since then.
"I hadn't thought about that," he said. "I'm glad I didn't." Then he smiled, clearly a man who now could look forward to Christmas.