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Wayne Staats | | November 3, 2022

Chaminade 77, No. 1 Virginia 72: College basketball's shocking upset remembered

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A return trip from Japan to the mainland United States included a brief stop in Hawai'i. Cinderella was waiting.

Days after beating Phi Slama Jama Houston and Utah in Tokyo, No. 1 Virginia and national player of the year 7-foot-4 center Ralph Sampson had a matchup with then-NAIA member Chaminade (now DII). With most Americans in bed and sleeping, the Silverswords pulled off one of college sports' biggest upsets on Dec. 23, 1982:

Chaminade 77, No. 1 Virginia 72

First, some fun stats from the game:

  • Virginia easily beat Chaminade the previous two years by 25 and 16 points
  • Chaminade, with a student body of only 850, hadn't even competed for a decade as a program
  • Virginia took 17 more shots but made only one more field goal
  • Chaminade center Tony Randolph — despite standing 10 inches shorter than Sampson — outscored the superstar 19 to 12 and relied on 19-foot jumpers instead of going inside. Randolph previously played Sampson in high school. "He's listed at 6-8, but I always like to give my players and inch or so in height," Chaminade coach Merv Lopes told the New York Times.
  • Sampson attempted only nine shots, making four
  • Chaminade outshot UVA 49.1 percent to 39.1 percent
  • The Silverswords outscored Virginia 21 to 14 from the foul line
  • Chaminade forced 13 steals, helping it win the turnover battle 25 to 14
  • Officially, 3,383 could claim they witnessed history at the Honolulu International Center. The building was at less than 50 percent capacity
  • Despite the historic defeat, Virginia dropped to only No. 4 in the next AP poll — and even picked up three first-place votes
  • Sandwiched between beating DI Hawai'i for the first time and No. 1 Virginia, Chaminade lost to Wayland Baptist
  • Less than two weeks prior, UVA topped Patrick Ewing and No. 3 Georgetown on the road Virginia-Chaminade box score

"I believe in miracles, you know," the university president said in a news broadcast on NBC. "That's part of my background. We pray for these things, you know? They happen."

Even sportscasters were shocked. As reported in The Atlantic, ESPN's Chris Berman was on SportsCenter when the score came cross the wire — "We can’t tell you what happened, but the No. 1 team in college basketball has lost to — we don’t even know who they are.”

As reported by Dave Anderson from the New York Times, First Baptist Church (Charlottesville, Virginia) Reverend H. Cowen Ellis addressed his congregation and said "Until Friday, I thought Chaminade was a fruit drink."

Despite the stunning upset, the Cavaliers still had a strong season. UVA got as high as No. 2 nationally, went 29-5 overall, reached the ACC tournament final and later the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed. NC State knocked out Virginia in both the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament before memorably shocking Houston at the horn in the national championship.

There were apparently no bitter feelings from UVA coach Terry Holland. In fact, the coach encouraged Chaminade to begin a tournament by inviting out more teams. The first Maui Invitational started only two years later in 1984 — with Virginia part of the four-team field. Now the event is one of the premier in-season tournaments in the sport.

For another look into the past, here are some notable headlines on the upset from around the country:

The New York Times The Honolulu Advertiser The Honolulu Advertiser Cedar Rapids Gazatte Cedar Rapids Gazette The Palm Beach Post The Chicago Tribune The Philadelphia Inquirer

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