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Today in Sports History: 12/24 | Biggest College Basketball Upset Ever

Today in sports history, the Chaminade Silverswords faced off against the Virginia Cavaliers in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1982. Chaminade was a small NAIA school with just 850 students. The Virginia Cavaliers were undefeated and led by three-time national player of the year Ralph Sampson. The Silverswords outlasted the Cavaliers, 77-72, in what many call the biggest college basketball upset of all time.

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Credit: Chaminade University

Chaminade Stop Ralph Sampson, Virginia | Today in Sports History

Coming into the game, Virginia was clearly the best college basketball team in the country. Led by Ralph Sampson, Virginia also featured Rick Carlisle, Othell Wilson and Craig Robinson, among others. The Cavaliers had beaten Duke by double-digits earlier in the year and also had bested Georgetown. In an early-season tournament in Tokyo, Virginia also beat up on Houston and Utah. That was also without Ralph Sampson who was out due to illness.

The game against Chaminade wasn’t even supposed to be scheduled. Virginia was hoping to play against Hawai’i, but the two schools weren’t able to make it work. Instead, Virginia decided to play Chaminade in their place. Chaminade came into the game with past history against Virginia, but little success to show for it.

In the previous three seasons, the Silverswords faced the Cavaliers twice. Both of those matchups ended up in double-digit losses for Chaminade. The biggest issue was stopping Sampson, who had a monster game 30-points game with 16 rebounds the year prior. It looked like he would do more of the same that year as well.

Undefeated No More | Massive College Basketball Upset

The best way to show just how little was thought of Chaminade was the attendance to the game. Approximately half of the arena was filled for the matchup. With Sampson’s massive presence in the paint, Chaminade’s offensive game plan revolved around getting out quick in transition and settling for jump shots. On defense, they simply surrounded Sampson at all times and forced him to make a play. Even with the height advantage, they made it hard for Sampson. They keyed in on him and he was double or triple-teamed every time he touched the ball.

The game was close throughout, as each team had its fair share of short runs. For Virginia, it seemed as if the ball just wouldn’t go down no matter what. For Chaminade, belief in the ability to pull off the impossible rose with every passing second.

Chaminade left the game open for Virginia at the very end, but the Cavaliers couldn’t convert. Down two with just over 30 seconds left, Virginia missed three straight shots before an unforced turnover led to Chaminade getting the ball back. After they drained both free throws, the game was virtually in the books. The game wasn’t covered much due to the time difference as the game ended in the early morning on the east coast.

Chaminade went on to make the NAIA tournament semifinals before losing to the College of Charleston who went on to win the tournament. Virginia eventually lost in the ACC tournament and the Elite Eight that year to Jim Valvano’s infamous N.C. State team known for the phrase “survive and advance.” Chaminade’s victory also paved the way for the creation of the Maui Invitational Tournament, which is held yearly and pits the Silverswords against seven other major college basketball teams.


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