The ASU men's basketball team were all smiles after defeating Colorado.
ASU coach Herb Sendek postgame grin seemed wider than his previous home victories.
His team collected its first statement win this season, defeating Colorado 65-56 Sunday at Wells Fargo Arena.
As he attempted to downplay the significance of this win, his facial expression spoke for itself.
The Sun Devils (13-2, 2-0 Pac-12) defeated a Buffaloes (10-4, 0-2 Pac-12) squad that has the sixth-best RPI by Rivals.com and CBSSports.com
“I’m always of the belief that whatever win you’re celebrating right now seems like the best,” Sendek said with a chuckle. "But to get that win at home is really important to us.”
It took a team effort to overcome an early first half deficit. The Sun Devils started the game 2-for-11 from the floor. They had only four points nearly midway through the first half.
Sendek was so desperate for a spark, he subbed in sophomore guard Bo Barnes. He averages just 4.3 minutes a game, yet Barnes was ASU’s leading scorer with 10:03 left in the first half. He drained a three-pointer, his first points recorded this season, which slowly got ASU’s offense back on track.
“We just challenged them to pick it up,” Sendek said. “We realized it was early and (that there was) a lot of time left, but we needed to get it going a little bit. All I remember right now is 17-4. That score for some reason is emblazed in my mind.”
Down 13 again, Sendek subbed in senior guard Chris Colvin with 9:01 left in the first half. Colvin was able to penetrate the lane and create high percentage shots for his teammates. The Sun Devils were down 20-7 at that point and outscored the Buffaloes 23-13 to trim the deficit down to three at halftime.
“We were down by so much in the first half, but we just knew we needed to stay calm and composed,” senior wing Carrick Felix said. “It was going to be a long game. Every timeout or every huddle we were talking about chipping away and taking it one possession at a time, and I think we did that.”
The Sun Devils tied the game at 39 with 14:22 left as sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling outhustled Colorado to tip in Colvin’s missed free throw shot.
They took their first lead nearly two minutes later when Felix scored on a layup.
Gilling finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds while Felix had 20 points and eight rebounds.
Just as their offense began to pick up steam, the Sun Devils shut down the Buffaloes in the second half.
The Buffaloes scored just 23 points and shot 26.3 percent in the second half. At one point in the second half, the Buffaloes went nearly four minutes without scoring a point.
Sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie led the team with 19 points and four assists. Sophomore guard Askia Booker fouled out but had 13 points and four rebounds.
Junior forward Jordan Bachynski played a huge role in shutting down the Buffaloes. One of the best shot blockers in the country racked up nine rejections to go along with 16 points and seven rebounds.
“The second half defensively was the best we did all year,” Felix said. “I think we really buckled down on our assignments, and we really nipped it in the bud. Our halftime talks (were) about what we really need to do. I think we went out there and actually executed and played hard.”
The Sun Devils went on a 12-0 run to stretch their lead to 55-43 with 3:30 left in the game.
Colvin and redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson scored six of the team’s 10 points during the stretch. They didn’t score much, but their ball movement played a huge role in the team’s second half performance. Colvin finished with nine points, four rebounds and five assists while Carson scored five points, four rebounds and three assists.
“The guys really played with a lot of heart,” Sendek said. “Not that I’m ever that eloquent but to me, it’s heart. I don’t know if there’s a better word to depict our team tonight. It starts with our leader Carrick Felix. I could search for other ways to explain the same thing, but anything short of that misses the mark.”
The Sun Devils are now 2-0 in conference play for just the fourth time in school history, which seemed like a difficult task entering Sunday’s contest.
“For us to step up and play like we did – I mean it wasn’t an overtime win so it was little bit better than our friends down south (UA) – but they’re (Colorado) a great team,” Bachynski said. “I think this is a huge win for us.”
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