Second Half Spark Ignites No. 21 Sun Devils Past Colorado
TEMPE - It was a tale of two halves on Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
Despite an opening 20 minutes in which it struggled from beyond the arc, Arizona State was able to turn a 32-32 tie at the break into an solid 80-66 victory over visiting Colorado.
"It felt like a breakthrough," said head coach Bobby Hurley after the victory. "I think those guys just had enough (of losing). They were due to all get it done together."
It was some easy dunks and early turnovers that staked the Sun Devils to an early lead while rallying a crowd of nearly 14,000, as ASU has now won five straight over the Buffaloes in Tempe.
Freshman Romello White got his team off on the right foot, using an easy two-handed slam and a nice spin move to grab an early 4-0 lead. Arizona State then got four steals from four different players over the next eight minutes, each of the turnovers resulting in immediate points on the other end.
The last act of thievery came via Remy Martin, who promptly drew a flagrant foul and hit both free throws to give his team its largest lead of the stanza at 17-9. Martin would finish the night with five points, four rebounds and a pair of steals.
The remaining nine minutes of the half were largely a back-and-forth affair, but the visitors from Boulder used a 7-2 run down the stretch to even the score at 32-32 at the halftime break.
The Sun Devils entered the locker rooms without a made three-pointer in the first 20 minutes of the game, the program's first-such half since last season's trip to Tucson. That would soon change, however, and so would Arizona State's fortunes.
Freshman Vitaliy Shibel was the one who got the team off the schneid, hitting from three on the team's first possession of the second half.
That triple gave the home team a 35-32 advantage, and when point guard Tra Holder hit from distance with 10 minutes left to make the score 53-51, the Sun Devils got a lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
"It's the basketball gods," said senior Shannon Evans II. "They see one go in and they're like, 'alright, everybody's going to make a shot now.'"
Holder's triple ignited a 14-6 run, a binge that featured a pair of triples from both Holder and Evans. The run gave Arizona State a double digit advantage and put the game out of reach in the process.
The home team ultimately cruised to an 80-66 victory, their largest win in conference play to date.
"This is a good league," Hurley said when asked about how tough Pac-12 play has been so far. "I think it's a very underrated conference."
Four Sun Devils finished the night in double figures, with Holder's 22 points leading the way. Evans followed closely behind with 19, while White and De'Quon Lake each added 10.
Arizona State returns to action on Thursday in Seattle, where it will face Washington for the first and only time this regular season. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. PT and the contest will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
ASU VS. CU IN TEMPE PAC-12 ERA (5-1)
ASU 80, CU 66/Jan. 27, 2018
ASU 78, CU 77/Jan. 5, 2017
ASU 78, CU 72/Jan. 17, 2015
ASU 72, CU 51/Jan. 25, 2014
ASU 65, CU 56/Jan. 6, 2013
CU 63, ASU 49/Feb. 11, 2012
SUN DEVIL CAREER STARTS
120, Jeff Pendergraph, 2005-09
119, Ty Abbott, 2007-11
114, Eddie House, 1996-2000
109, Tra Holder, 2014-18
109, Ron Riley, 1992-96
QUOTING SHANNON EVANS
On the last time he had that much fun in a game
"Can't even remember to be honest. I was trying to get back to that, sharing the ball, get out in transition and things like that. I felt like we found something in the second half that we could build on."
On not making a three in the first half
"It was tough. We actually said the first one to go in, we're going to get hot. Vitaliy [Shibel] started off, Kodi [Justice] got going, Tra [Holder] got going and I kind of got going in the end."
On what contributes to his second-half outbursts
"Honestly, I really don't know. I try to have the mindset of starting early in the first half but it always comes in the second half. So, I just felt like I should just play the game and whenever it comes to me, it comes. I can't really predict when the first half or the second half, but it always comes in the second half so it's cool."
On if it felt like earlier in the year with all the shots going in
"It felt like the summertime. It felt like we were in Barcelona, things like that. That's how we were playing. Guys just kept making shots. To see a few go in and guys the momentum, confidence and things like that, it's always great to lead into Washington."
On how frustrating it was when teams started adjusting
"I feel like the Pac-12 have a lot of great coaches. All the coaches here are really smart so they know what we like to do and make adjustments. It's on us to make the shots. The zone and things like that really can't stop us. We have got to make shots, get the ball in the post and do what we do. I felt like we did that late in the second half."
On if it was a matter of time shots started falling in again
"For sure. Guys weren't making shots. We were playing good defense but the ball was not going in for us. We knew once we saw a few go in, we were going to bust it open. That's what we did."
On how important it is to create turnovers and get fast break opportunities
"I feel like it is very important just for the simple fact that we like to get in transition. That's what we score a lot. Guys love to get transition threes, dunks, create turnovers and throw lobs. That's the way we like to play. So, in order to that, we've got to create turnovers."
On if the shooting is contagious
"It is. It's crazy. I don't know. It's like the basketball god. See one go in and then everybody is going to make a shot now. So it's cool.
On passing up open shots
"We don't pass up shots here. If you have a good shot, let it go."