It’s always premature to speculate how significant one win in the regular season could be going forward.
Still, with an NCAA Tournament berth in the ASU men’s basketball team’s mind, a chance to play a high-ranked RPI team behooved the Sun Devils (15-5, 4-3 Pac-12) even more to come up with a win on Saturday night
The Sun Devils held their ground again in their second part of their critical homestand and blew out Colorado, 72-51.
It wasn’t an earth-shaking upset, especially with the Buffaloes (15-6, 4-4 Pac-12) missing junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie, but a win over a team with the No. 18 RPI in the nation is still critical nevertheless.
It also looks better that the Sun Devils had their largest margin of victory in Pac-12 play since Jan. 10, 2010, when they defeated Washington State, 71-46.
“I was really pleased with our team’s defensive effort,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “I thought our guys played with good effort, good concentration and really helped each other on the (defensive) end of the floor.”
For the second straight game, ASU didn’t rely heavily on its big three of redshirt sophomore point guard Jahii Carson, senior center Jordan Bachynski and senior guard Jermaine Marshall. The Sun Devils had another inspired effort from their supporting cast and put on a much more balanced effort than usual.
Sendek’s midseason starting lineup change to move up sophomore center Eric Jacobsen over junior forward Jonathan Gilling continued to pay dividends. Jacobsen added six points and six rebounds while being a noticeable factor inside on both ends of the floor. He held Colorado sophomore forward Josh Scott to 11 points and seven points.
Meanwhile, Gilling had 12 points off the bench and is now 7-for-7 from the 3-point line in his last two games.
“Jon has responded to the shift like a champion, and so has Eric Jacobsen,” Sendek said. “I think Eric’s improvement and his progress in his play is really helping our basketball team right now. He’s such a smart player and a tough player and you can see his confidence growing.”
ASU redshirt junior guard Bo Barnes continued his hot streak and contributed seven points and three rebounds in 19 minutes of play. Sendek commended Barnes for playing with energy, especially while playing on-ball defense.
“His defense has never been his calling card, but his effort gave me hope,” Sendek said.
ASU had 24 points off the bench on Saturday. Senior forward Shaquielle McKissic also chipped in seven points, six rebounds and five assists as a starter at small forward.
Things seem to be coming easier for Carson, as he finished with 18 points and four assists. He surpassed the 1,000-point career milestone on his first shot of the game, which was a 3-pointer in transition.
The only blemish on ASU’s victory were the 11 turnovers the Sun Devils committed in the first half. Still, they only committed five after halftime and forced the Buffaloes to give up 19 the entire game.
“We were just going a little too fast,” Carson said about the first half. “We got a little too excited. Guys that were coming off the bench were anxious to get in there and make a contribution. The second half, we talked to each other. Coach Herb said, ‘Just slow down and take care of the ball. We can’t have this going on in the second half because it would allow free transition points. That’s what stopped it for us.’”
A 7-0 run early in the first half helped the Sun Devils widen their margin at the start of the game. ASU’s turnover woes prevented the Sun Devils to coming out with an even bigger lead, but went into halftime with a 34-23 lead.
Other than the Sun Devils’ adjustment to fix their ballhandling, not much changed from there.
ASU went on a 12-4 run to go off in the second half. The Sun Devils kept going at their current pace and built their lead to as much as 25 points before they cleared the bench in garbage time.
Colorado sophomore forward Xavier Johnson had nine points at halftime but only scored three the rest of the game.
Now that ASU’s short-term woes have come into an end, the Sun Devils are focused on continuing it as they head back onto the road.
There aren’t any easy road games in the Pac-12, but the Sun Devils believe they are in good spirit to keep their spirits high outside of Wells Fargo Arena.
“We knew we have a tough road coming ahead against Cal and Stanford,” Carson said. “This a great momentum for us coming off these two wins that hopefully we can carry the momentum and keep our good energy next week in practice.”
- ASU hung former ASU guard Eddie House’s No. 5 up in the rafters at Wells Fargo Arena during halftime of Saturday’s game. House is the fifth Sun Devil to have his jersey retired. Former players like Joe Caldwell, whose number is also retired, joined House and his family in the ceremony.
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