Sun Devils Get Revenge Against Colorado in Fashionable Win
By Andrew Bell // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, Ariz. – With a 3-5 conference record and a look at the basement of the Pac-12, No. 21 ASU defeated the Colorado Buffaloes 80-66 on Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
On Thursday night, ASU was moments away from a win against Utah. However, the Utes stole a victory from the hands of ASU in the waning seconds of overtime. Following a frustrating defeat on its home floor, the Sun Devils responded on Saturday.
“We were one shot away from this being two wins in a row, and it takes something away from you,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “I think that maybe from a confidence standpoint on offense, that might have carried over… I think the guys maybe just had enough.”
Saturday’s game was a tail of two halves, as ASU shot 0-10 from beyond the arc and was tied at 32 with Colorado going into the locker room.
However, the first shot of the second half might have come as a good omen for the Sun Devils. On the first possession, ASU senior guard Tra Holder came off of a screen, drew a couple of defenders and then swung a pass to the wing for redshirt freshman forward Vitaliy Shibel.
Shibel proceeded to drill the open jumper, and then the floodgates opened. ASU was 10-21 from the three-point line in the second half and the Sun Devils relied on the senior presences of Holder and Shannon Evans II to spur the team to a victory.
“They are too talented and they have done too much this year, and made so many big plays that they were due to all do it together,” Hurley said. “They did in that second half.”
Holder tallied 22 points on 7-14 shooting, and Evans II flipped a switch in the last 20 minutes of play.
“I think if we see somebody making shots… we get confidence from that, and we like seeing success from everyone,” Holder said.
After recording just six points and turning the ball over twice in the first half, Evans II exploded for 13 points in a much more efficient performance.
At one point, ASU went on an 18-4 run and Holder and Evans II were in sync, delivering continuous big shots down the stretch of the game that sent Wells Fargo Arena into a frenzy.
The seniors accounted for eight of ASU’s 10 three’s, and 31 of the team’s 48 points in the second half.
“That’s how we were playing (earlier in the season),” Evans II said. “To see a few go in and guys getting momentum and confidence, it’s always great.”
Aside from the second half outburst, ASU was able to dig in defensively and make things uncomfortable for a Buffaloes team that had 17 turnovers.
In the first half, both teams got off to sluggish starts and ASU was able to force turnovers to make up for the frustrating performance from the three-point line.
Redshirt freshman forward Romello White and junior forward De’Quon Lake provided a much-needed offensive boost that was able to keep the Sun Devils afloat in the opening 20 minutes.
Against Colorado’s zone defense, White and Lake were the beneficiaries of a variety of high-low passes that resulted in points in the paint.
Although Colorado rallied and was able to make a run near the end of the first half to tie the game, the performances from the two big men early in the game were pivotal.
Both players tallied 10 points, and their efforts were understated by the electric play of the senior guards in the backcourt–something that both big men have been accustomed to while playing at “GUARD U”.
Nevertheless, the win got ASU back on track and the team picked up its first double-digit victory of conference play.
In retrospect, ASU still sits at 4-5 in Pac-12 play and the toughest part of the team’s schedule has yet to be played.
While the Sun Devils are not exactly where they would like to be at the midway point of conference play, Saturday’s game could provide confidence moving forward.
It is likely that ASU will fall out of the AP top-25 come Monday, but Saturday’s second half was a flash of what ASU fans witnessed in non-conference play–an up-tempo, aggressive team that could pull away from teams within the blink of an eye.
Whether or not Saturday’s game will serve as a turning point or just a lone game in January has yet to be determined, but it did allow for an entertaining game for a team that has been looking to bust out of its shell in the Pac-12.
Up next, ASU will travel to Seattle to take on Washington on Thursday, Feb. 1. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. MST.
“You feel like your record could be a little different if a few different things happen,” Hurley said. “Our record can’t be what it’s been in the first nine, and you have a feeling that we could use the momentum that we got here in the second half, and bring that into the second half of Pac-12 play.”
Andrew Bell is one of Blaze Radio’s beat writers for ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBell7 .