Duke Knocks Gritty Rams Out of NCAA's, 67-57

The incredible late season run that took the Colorado State Rams into the NCAA tournament, ended with a thud Thursday night, as the Duke Blue Devils held off a gritty Rams team 67-57 in the first round of the West Regional.

By winning the tight defensive battle, Duke (24-6) moves on to meet upset winner Central Michigan in the second round, while CSU end it's upstart season at 19-13.

Senior Dahntay Jones led the Blue Devils with 23 points - including his team's first 11 points - before fouling out with just under six minutes to play, while senior center Casey Sanders had five blocked shots before fouling out with just over three minutes to play. Rams sophomore center Matt Nelson led the Rams with 21 points.

"We felt like we won a really big game against a really good basketball team," said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

With the pro-CSU crowd at Utah's Huntsman Center cheering loudly, the Rams kept it close, and made the heavily-favored Dukies work all the way to the end.

After falling behind by double digits mid-way through the second half, the Rams - as they did in all three Mountain West Conference Tournament wins - scrapped back. After Daniel Ewing came off the bench to sink a 3-pointer and a driving layup to put the Blue Devils up 59-51 with 4:52 to play, Colorado State mounted a last challenge. Brian Greene's baseline 16-footer capped a 14-7 run that made it 59-57 with just under three minutes to play. But Greene missed another jumper, and Shelton Johnson missed a pair of free throws - which would have tied the game - before Duke 6' 9" freshman Shelden Williams hit a follow shot to make it 61-57, then sank two free throws with 44.2 seconds left. Duke hit six free throws down the stretch to make it a final 10-point margin.

Despite the poor shooting and turnovers, CSU kept it close early. The Rams jumped to an 8-4 lead, fell behind 13-8 after a 9-0 Duke run, then drew even at 20-20 mid-way through the first half. The cold Rams shooting helped Duke pull out to a nine point lead late in the half, but the Blue Devil's led by just six, 36-30 at intermission after Andy Birley's off balance three-pointer dropped at the buzzer.

The Blue Devils smoothering defense held CSU, which led the nation in field goal shooting during the season at better than 51%, to 33% shooting. The Rams also committed 19 turnovers, while Sanders five rejections were part of eight the Blue Devils totaled for the game.

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