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Wagner, Colorado State kick off NCAA Tournament with wins in First Four

ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Wagner’s Julian Brown (13) and Melvin Council Jr., left, dive for a loose ball as Howard’s Seth Towns watches during the first half.
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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Wagner’s Julian Brown (13) and Melvin Council Jr., left, dive for a loose ball as Howard’s Seth Towns watches during the first half.

DAYTON, Ohio >> Wagner kicked off March Madness with the first NCAA Tournament win in program history, getting 21 points from Melvin Council Jr. and holding off a late rally by Howard to win 71-68 in the First Four.

The Northeast Conference champion Seahawks (17-15) advanced as the No. 16 seed in the West Region and will play top seed North Carolina on Thursday.

Howard trailed by 17 points early in the second half but went on a late 14-2 run, closing within 69-68 on Bryce Harris’ layup with 18 seconds left. After Julian Brown hit a pair of free throws for Wagner, Howard attempted three 3-pointers in the last 6 seconds but missed them all.

Brown finished with 15 points for the Seahawks, who made their only previous NCAA Tournament appearance in 2003 — one year before their second-year coach, Donald Copeland, made the first of his two appearances in the tourney as a player for Seton Hall.

DAYTON, Ohio >> Joel Scott had 23 points and 11 rebounds as Colorado State won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in 11 years, blowing out Virginia 67-42 in the First Four.

Nique Clifford scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Rams (25-10), who advance as a No. 10 seed to play seventh-seeded Texas on Thursday.

Reece Beekman had 15 points on 4-of-16 shooting for Virginia, which hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since it won the national title in 2019. That stretch includes two first-round losses as a No. 4 seed.

The Cavaliers’ ugly performance ignited more debate about whether they should have made the tournament field. Although Virginia finished third in the Atlantic Coast Conference, it had just two Quad 1 wins and struggled offensively all season.

Colorado State dominated the boards and the Cavaliers couldn’t keep up, shooting 25% for the game. The Rams shot 55%, out-rebounded the Cavaliers 43-24 and scored 36 points in the paint.

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