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CSU Rams clobber Virginia in First Four slugfest, advance to matchup with Texas

DAYTON, Ohio — Rams fans have Carolina on their minds. And a sweet victory over Virginia to thank for it.

The CSU men’s basketball team will face Texas in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday after rolling to a dominant 67-42 win over Virginia in a “First Four” rout in the NCAA Tournament at the UD Arena on Tuesday night.

Behind forward Joel Scott’s 23 points and 11 rebounds and a defense that had held the Cavaliers to a 25% shooting clip from the floor, CSU won its first game in the Big Dance in 11 years.

Rams guard Nique Clifford finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Rams (25-10).

It was the program’s first win at the Big Dance since March 21, 2013, when the eighth-seeded Rams under Larry Eustachy knocked off Missouri, 84-72, in Lexington, Ky. That team lost to top-seeded Louisville two days later, 82-56, to finish with a 26-9 record.

After a shaky first four minutes, coach Niko Medved’s Rams grabbed the game by the thorax and never let go. Virginia, behind forward Jordan Minor, appeared to climb off the mat a bit with a 4-0 run that trimmed the CSU lead to 44-29. But on the subsequent Rams possession, Cartier squirted free in the top right part of the arc, let an open 3-point attempt fly, and saw it bounce off the front of the rim and in to put the 10 seed up 18. Scott’s two free throws 40 seconds later extended that lead to 49-29 with 8:56 to play. The burly forward pushed that cushion to 22 points — 53-31 — on a layup with 7:16 left in the contest.

Over one stretch at the end the first half and the first four minutes of the second, Virginia was scoreless for 12:43 and missed 19 straight field-goal attempts.

Befitting a sluggish, slog-like UVA game, the tilt went more than five minutes before a team reached four points — the Cavs took a 4-2 lead on a Ryan Dunn jumper.

But the basket opened up for the Rams not long after that. CSU strung together a methodical 8-0 run, capped by Clifford’s trey from the left corner with 12:33 to go until halftime.

Four minutes later, Virginia was 5 for 16 from the floor, while the Rams were 8 for 16. With two minutes until the break, the Hoos were shooting at a 20% clip (5 for 25), as part of a scoring drought of 9:20 to close the half.

Despite some misses underneath early, CSU was able to finally get looks down low and, more importantly, cash in on them. Scott used his physicality to win position down low and grind his way to a team-high 10 points at the break, while the acumen of Clifford off the dribble (seven points, eight rebounds at the half) helped the Rams outscore Virginia by a margin of 18-4 in the paint.

Virginia came into the Dance ranked 193rd in the country by in offensive efficiency. And the Cavaliers certainly lived down to that ranking, as the Rams held them to their lowest-scoring half of the season at 14 points.

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