Virginia Gets Easily Defeated by Colorado State in the First Four

The ball never once passed through Virginia’s basket over nearly an hour of real time and 14 minutes of game time.

Although the Cavaliers have often suffered from slow offensive production, this season’s slump was especially excruciating. Many believed that Virginia should have played in the NCAA tournament instead of a Big East club or maybe Indiana State. Tony Bennett, the coach of the Cavaliers, stated that his team arrived at the First Four with genuine excitement, having “maxed out” its regular-season potential.

Rather, it was Colorado State that affirmed its ranking and demonstrated that it might have been a better seed. Perhaps more surprisingly, the 10th-seeded Rams exploited weaknesses in the legendary Cavaliers defense to cruise to a 67-42 victory at UD Arena. They also suffocated the offense of fellow 10-seed Virginia.

Colorado State advanced in the Midwest region and will next play Texas, ranked seventh, in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Rams coach Niko Medved remarked of Bennett, “We felt like we had an opportunity to win here tonight, but that’s a Hall of Fame coach over there.” “That’s an incredible program, one that I have an unbelievable amount of respect for. So, I didn’t see this coming tonight at all.”

The Cavaliers would not score again until Reece Beekman’s jump shot with 16:37 remaining in the game, following his pair of free throws with 9:20 remaining in the first half. The drought, which lasted 13:53 of game time and 59 minutes of real time—including a 20-minute halftime—included 19 straight missed shots.

The fewest points scored by an ACC team in the first half of an NCAA tournament game since Wake Forest scored 10 against Butler in the first round in 2001 was achieved by Colorado State, which limited Virginia to five field goals and 14 points in the first half. With 1:59 remaining, Virginia had achieved 40 points, eclipsing their previous record of 39 points against Florida in 2017 as the fewest points scored by an ACC club in the Big Dance.

“They’re one of the slowest, if not the slowest-playing team, offensively, in the country,” Medved stated. “But if you look at us, we’re one of the top two in the country in defensive tempo, meaning we force teams to play late in the shot clock.”

Virginia’s two best scoring options, Isaac McKneely and Beekman, were limited to a combined 6-of-29 shooting by Rams guards Nique Clifford and Josiah Strong. Joel Scott (23 points) and Clifford (17 points) set off a 40-point second half for the Rams as CSU continuously found holes in Virginia’s signature defense after the Rams had scored 27 points in the first half.

Clifford said, “We didn’t let them take us out of our game plan.” “We stuck to what we do and just were confident in it.”

Virginia’s defense, according to Bennett, “unraveled.”

Cavs guard Beekman continued, “They did a good job of pressuring the ball, being in the passing lanes and in the gap.” “I think we ran some good offense today, as well. The shots weren’t falling.”

According to Clifford, Colorado State “took it a little personal” about being the 10-seed chosen for the First Four after winning 9-9 in the Mountain West and 4-1 versus opponents in Quadrants 1 and 2 in nonconference play.

It was the Rams’ first NCAA Tournament victory since 2013.

“Hard to imagine tonight going any better for us,” Medved stated.

Virginia’s performance on Tuesday couldn’t have gone much worse, while the team’s offensive shortcomings weren’t entirely unexpected. With 63.6 points per game, the Cavaliers were bottom in the ACC and 344th overall in terms of scoring offense. They scored forty-one points in defeat twice and, seven times, fewer than fifty points, which is the most they had scored in a season since 1947–48 (8).

In their five previous NCAA tournament outings, Virginia has lost its first game four times while winning a national championship in the other (2019).

“We’ve raised the bar really high here. We’ve qualified for this tournament, which is not an easy thing. We’ve done well,” said Bennett. “But it’s stung to get to this point and not advance. Of course, we have to keep adding quality players. We’ve got to look at things, certainly, from a system standpoint.”

As the 10-seed chosen for the First Four, Clifford claimed Colorado State “took it a little personal” after the team finished 4-1 against opponents in the Quadrants 1 and 2 in nonconference play and 9-9 against them in the Mountain West.