No. 21 ASU men’s basketball used a flurry of six-straight threes and an 18-2 run in the second half to separate itself from the University of Colorado Buffaloes and pull off a desperate conference victory, 80-66, Saturday night.
Three-point shooting was the team’s biggest strength and weakness; the Sun Devils made zero threes in the first half and 10 in the second half.
“These players are too good for us to not be able to do that,” head coach Bobby Hurley said about the team’s shooting performance. “You hope that that happens on a regular basis, but it sure felt good for me to see numerous guys make big shots throughout that half.”
ASU came into the game ranked 10th in the Pac-12 and were headed towards another disappointing conference loss after a poor shooting performance in the first half.
The senior duo combined for 41 points (half of ASU’s total) and were the source of ASU’s burst of six consecutive three-pointers in the second half, which led to an 18-2 run.
The offensive outburst erupted the home crowd and prevented Colorado from regaining momentum.
Holder finished the game with 22 points on 7-14 shooting while adding five rebounds and four assists. This was also his second straight 20-point game.
Evans II found his groove alongside Holder and added 19 points and shot 44 percent from beyond the arc.
Hurley said the players had enough in the second half and were eager to pull away.
“All he does is yell at me, so I wanted him to be quiet — so I tried to make a few shots for him,” Evans said jokingly. “I’m just playing. He knows that kind of gets me going, so him on me is good. I like that.”
The visiting Buffaloes were unable to find an offensive rhythm this game, as they committed 17 turnovers. Freshman guard McKinley Wright IV and senior guard George King, the team’s two leading scorers, were held to just 10 points the entire game.
Wright, who averages 14.9 points per game, was held to two points. King, who averages 14.6 points per game, was held to 10 points.
ASU forced Wright to shoot the ball and kept him out of the paint (he shoots 33 percent from three). Against King, the Sun Devils defended the pick-and-roll adequately and limited his shot outtake.
“I just loved our defensive effort for 40 minutes,” Hurley said after the game. “It was probably our best, I know it was our best in Pac-12 play and probably the best all year. In terms of our energy, deflections, it was one of the highest deflection totals. We were very good on ball-screen coverage today.”
Hurley added how the team’s defensive intensity gave the players confidence, which had a direct correlation to the offensive surge in the second half.
Although ASU has had subpar performances in conference play, the team will play five of its last nine conference games at home with a chance at a top-four finish in the Pac-12.
“You just feel good knowing you have a majority of the games left at home,” Hurley said. “We have to play better in the last nine, our record can’t be what it has been through the first nine. I have a feeling we could use the momentum that we got (tonight) in the second half and bring that into the second half of Pac-12 play.”