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No. 16 Colorado St. turns back Loyola Marymount’s upset bid

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Nique Clifford scored 23 points Friday night and No. 16 Colorado State led nearly wire-to-wire in a 76-67 nonconference win over Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles.

Point guard Isaiah Stevens added 19 points and seven assists for the Rams (11-1), while Patrick Cartier chipped in 14 points.

Colorado State played its usual efficient game on offense, converting 56.6 percent of its field goal attempts and collecting 21 assists while committing just nine turnovers.

Will Johnston pumped in a game-high 27 points for the Lions (7-6), going 8 of 12 from the 3-point line, and Keli Leaupepe added 13. Loyola Marymount canned 12 of 26 3-point attempts but made only 43.4 percent from the field. The Lions also committed 12 turnovers, which Colorado State converted into 16 points.

But the Lions had a legitimate chance to pull off the upset after erasing a 16-point first half deficit to take a 44-43 lead on a 3-pointer by Leaupepe with 15:13 left in the game.

However, the Rams responded with a 3-pointer by Stevens that started a 10-0 run, which Clifford ended with two foul shots at the 10:49 mark for a nine-point advantage. The game was never closer than four points after that.

Colorado State set the tone in the first five minutes, answering the Lions’ opening basket by Lamaj Lewis with a 14-1 run. Cartier’s 3-pointer made it 14-3 at the 12:32 mark.

The Rams were especially good on defense, holding Loyola Marymount without a field goal for more than 7 1/2 minutes. When the Lions fought back within nine, Stevens and Clifford crafted a 7-0 run that increased the advantage to 33-17 after a Clifford 3-pointer with 5:16 left.

Colorado State went scoreless for the final 3:52 of the half, but Loyola Marymount didn’t cut into the lead as much as it would have liked. Still, Justin Wright’s jumper in the closing seconds allowed it to pull within 35-27 at intermission.

–Field Level Media

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