Cavaliers’ season ends in NCAA First Four with 67-42 loss to Colorado State

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia’s whirlwind NCAA Tournament run came about as quickly as it went, concluding in the First Four in Dayton in an embarrassing 67-42 loss to Colorado State on Tuesday.

After a pair of Reece Beekman free throws cut the Rams’ lead to four, 18-14, with 9:20 left until halftime, the Cavaliers missed 15-consecutive field goals to end the half across the final 10:30, and fell behind by 13, 27-14, at the break.

Virginia’s season-low 14 points marked the lowest-scoring half in an NCAA Tournament game — for any team — in five years.

The Rams opened the second half with eight unanswered points to push their lead to 21 before Beekman finally ended the near-14-minute drought with a basket that bounced in with 16:38 to play, prompting a Bronx cheer from the Wahoo fans that made the trip.

UVA used an 8-2 run to get back within 15, 44-29, on a Jake Groves corner triple midway through the second half, but CSU answered right back with a 9-2 spurt of its own to put things out of reach for good.

“Credit goes to Colorado State,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett, whose teams have been bounced from the Big Dance in three-straight trips, and four of the last five. “They’re a hard-nosed, tough defensive team. They run their stuff well. [Head coach Niko Medved] does a great job, and their physicality bothered us. …

“Their veteran play, their experience, it really showed. We’re always just trying to be so sound. We didn’t really take away the lane. We didn’t take away the 3.”

The Rams (25-10), who were ranked as high as No. 13 nationally earlier in the season, got a huge game from big man Joel Scott, a guy who was named national player of the year in 2022-23 at the Division-II level with Black Hills State. In his D-I tourney debut Tuesday, Scott turned in a career-high 23 points to go along with 11 rebounds, as CSU dominated the Hoos on the interior, 36-20, and on the boards, 43-24.

Colorado transfer Nique Clifford added a double-double of his own with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists.

The Cavaliers finish the 2023-24 season with a record of 23-11 after dropping five of their final eight games and six of their last 10. In his final contest as a Wahoo, Beekman put up a team-high 15 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds.

“That was a tough way to go out,” said Beekman, who will now pursue a professional career after finishing his final semester. “Didn’t imagine it to go that way at all. But I’m just blessed to have a career here of four years. I’ve been able to play since almost basically day one. I know that’s not usual.

“So I’m just looking back at it, happy about the experience, happy being back here doing my last year of college. It was just a blessing. I don’t want this game to define my whole season or my whole career. Yes, it’s tough, but I’m glad to be in this position.”

It was an especially rough shooting night for the Cavaliers, as Beekman, Isaac McKneely and Groves, considered the top three scoring threats on the roster, combined to shoot 7 for 37 from the field (19 percent) and 3 for 13 from long range (23 percent).

The Hoos misfired on open shots on multiple occasions throughout the game, and wound up with their lowest field-goal percentage of the season, while allowing a season-high 55 percent from the floor (the Rams connected on 26 of their 47 attempts).

UVA shot just 25 percent (14 for 56) on the night and 18 percent (3 for 17) from downtown, knocking down 11 of 17 (65 percent) from the free-throw line.

Aside from Beekman, no other Virginia player finished in double figures. Jordan Minor, also playing in his final collegiate contest, scored all 7 of his points in the second half. McKneely (2 for 13; 2 for 6 from deep) sank a pair of early 3-pointers to get the Hoos within 14-12, but didn’t score again the rest of the night.

Rams forward Patrick Cartier added 12 points in the win, while CSU’s all-time leading scorer, senior star point guard Isaiah Stevens, was limited to just 5 points (2 for 5 FG).

The Rams, who picked up just their fifth NCAA Tournament victory in program history Tuesday (and first since 2013), will advance to face No. 7 seed Texas on Thursday night in Charlotte.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • Virginia (23-11) is 8-9 away from home, including a 3-3 mark on neutral courts
  • UVA dropped its eighth contest away from home by 16 or more points
  • UVA won 23 or more games for the 10th time under Tony Bennett
  • UVA shot an NCAA tournament low 25 percent (14 of 56), surpassing 27.7 percent (18 of 65) vs. Brigham Young in 1991
  • UVA is 0-1 all-time vs. Colorado State
  • CSU led 27-14 at the half as UVA tied a season low for first half points
  • UVA is 0-5 when scoring fewer than 20 points in the first half
  • UVA was held scoreless for the last 9:20 of the first half
  • UVA tied a season low with five made first half field goals (North Carolina)
  • UVA went 5 of 29 (17.2 percent) from the field in the first half, the second-lowest first-half field-goal percentage this season (5 of 30 for 16.7 percent vs. North Carolina)
  • CSU went on an 8-0 run to gain a 10-4 lead and closed the first half on a 13-2 run
  • CSU started the second half on an 8-0 run and led 35-14

UVA All-Time in the NCAA Tournament

  • The Cavaliers are 35-25 all-time in 26 NCAA tournament appearances
  • UVA made its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance under Tony Bennett
  • UVA is 0-2 as a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament
  • Virginia head coach Tony Bennett is 16-11 in 12 NCAA tournaments, including a 13-9 record at UVA

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Reece Beekman (15)
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 59th time (29 in 2023-24)
  • Beekman moved into second on UVA’s single-season assist list with 212
  • Beekman finished his UVA career with 1,195 points; 428 rebounds, 636 assists and 228 steals
  • McKneely (two 3-pointers) made two or more 3-pointers in 22 games