"I'll be honest with you," Virginia Coach Terry Holland said, "I was teed off enough after last night that I considered not playing him." The "him" was Ralph Sampson, who had twice been whistled for elbowing Richmond players and who had once spat on the floor in a 102-85 Cavalier win in the first round of the Times-Dispatch tournament in Richmond. Neither Holland nor the Spiders appreciated Sampson's actions, which Sampson said stemmed from "getting elbows and forearms in the back." But in the title game, a 75-59 defeat of Old Dominion, Sampson was on his best behavior. What may have been more impressive than Sampson's 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots during that game was his refusal to engage in fisticuffs with rival Center Mark West, who tried to egg him on.
St. John's won the ECAC Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden for the third time in four years. The Redmen opened their defense with a 75-64 triumph over Brigham Young. In the finale, against previously unbeaten Wake Forest, David Russell of St. John's put on a virtuoso performance during the first three minutes of the second half, spinning free for a close-in basket, hitting again from underneath, dunking and then sinking a baseline jumper. Russell later topped off his 21-point effort by concluding a breakaway dash with a 360-degree slam. St. John's went on to a 72-65 win and Russell, just as in 1979, was the MVP.
The MVP of the Rochester Classic was a player who didn't start either game for his team—Guard Todd Berkenpas of Iowa. Although Berkenpas had only 22 points during the tournament, he kept coming off the bench to perk up the Hawkeyes, guiding them past James Madison 47-45 and Seton Hall 85-63.
Dereck Whittenburg and Thurl Bailey led North Carolina State to a 67-59 triumph over West Virginia at the Meadowlands. Whittenburg scored 19 points, including 13 of the Wolfpack's first 18 in the second half. Bailey contributed 18 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocked shots.
Syracuse missed nine of its first 10 shots against Pittsburgh before finding the range and winning 87-66. Against Canisius, the Orangemen got off to a quick start—38 points in the first 10 minutes—and breezed 109-76.
Stuart Gray, UCLA's 7-foot sophomore, had a few unkind words to say to himself when he sat down as his teammates warmed up for the second half against Louisville. After the game. Gray explained it this way: "I just said to myself, 'You're a big, slow, white center.' I don't mind it when others say it or write it. When I say it to myself, though, I get mad." Gray's soliloquy was prompted by a miserable first half in which he had no points and three fouls and spent most of the time on the sideline. After picking up his fourth foul early in the second half, Gray again sat down. Then, with the Cardinals leading 64-54, he went back in and began popping in shots and pulling down rebounds. It was Gray's stuff with 29 seconds remaining that finally put the Bruins ahead 74-72. Gray wound up with 14 points and nine rebounds for the game and was the main man as UCLA rallied for a 76-72 victory. While the Bruins got hot, the Cardinals went cold, failing to score a single point during the final 4:44.
For Nevada-Las Vegas, the catalyst during its Holiday Classic was Guard Jeff Collins, a transfer from Arizona. With the first semester ended, Collins became eligible to play for the Rebels—and play he did, winning the MVP award. In an opening-round 120-70 drubbing of Wagner, Collins pumped in 11 of 13 shots, scored 25 points, dished out nine assists, made a school-record seven steals and grabbed five rebounds—all in 23 minutes. With Collins scoring 18 more points, Vegas then upset Tennessee 70-54 to win its second at-home tournament in seven days. (The week before, UNLV had taken the Rebel Roundup.) Las Vegas outrebounded Tennessee 40-27, and the Rebels' Sidney Green got the edge in his battle with the Vols' Dale Ellis, 25-24 in scoring and 13-6 in rebounds.
There was a sweet triumph for North Carolina at the end of the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu. The Tar Heels, who had defeated Texas Tech 79-47 and Oklahoma 77-69 in the first two rounds, trailed Missouri by 10 points in the championship game before squaring the score at 31-31 at halftime. At the start of the second half, the Tigers canned nine of their first 10 field-goal tries. North Carolina, though, was also on target, sinking 14 of its first 18 shots and pulling away from a 52-all deadlock to win 73-58. That victory, in which Sam Perkins had 24 points and 13 rebounds for the Tar Heels, enabled Carolina to avenge an early-season 64-60 loss to Missouri.