ASU Basketball: Sun Devils Riding Momentum


On the heels of an epic win over in-state rival U of A, the ASU men’s basketball team is hoping to ride that momentum heading into the second half of conference play.

Saturday’s win over Arizona was a thriller.  The Sun Devils got down by as much as seven points during the first half.  In this stretch (truthfully throughout most of the game) Arizona’s scoring seemed effortless.  Even though ASU played a dogged man to man defense, it was clear that Arizona had talented players.  And they made shots.

Meanwhile, ASU’s scoring seemed labored.  Penetration was difficult.  Good looks at the basket were rare.  It seemed as if ASU had to literally “will” their way to scoring just to keep up with Arizona.  ASU’s freshman point guard Tra Holder was the MVP of the first half for ASU.  Holder’s penetration, scoring and playmaking kept the Sun Devils in the game.  His ten points led all scorers at halftime.

In the first half, with a seven point lead, U of A went on a cold streak.  That streak, coupled with a wild play to finish the half gave ASU a 9 point lead going into halftime.  In the closing seconds of the first half, ASU’s Shaquielle McKissic stole a long inbounds pass and took a shot with less than two seconds left.  It missed, but forward Savon Goodman was there to grab the airball and score it as time expired.  It was a tremendous error by Arizona and a huge lift for the Sun Devils going into halftime.

The MVP for ASU in the second half was senior forward Bo Barnes.  Barnes, a reserve, hit several shots in the game, but none bigger than a 3 pointer with about 30 seconds left in the game.  His shot could be described as the “dagger” for the Wildcats.  At the time, ASU was holding on to a 4 point lead.  Barnes’ shot from about 26 feet with the shot clock winding down pushed the ASU lead to seven points, 75-68.

Barnes was also 6 for 6 at the free throw line in the remaining seconds of the game.  (Holder and Jacob Erikson were also clutch from the line).  Late game free throw shooting has been a problem for ASU, especially in the first half of the season.  But Saturday, as a team, they were spot-on.  Barnes’ final two free throws pushed the lead to six points with about 5 seconds remaining.  U of A guard TJ McConnell hit a meaningless three pointer at the buzzer to cut the final score to three, making the final ASU 81 U of A 78.

This game was another example of a Herb Sendek coached game where ASU has knocked off the higher-ranked Arizona Wildcats.  This has become a pattern recently.  On top of that, in the last two seasons, ASU is 26-4 at home.  That’s a good statistic heading into the final stretch of the season.

So now, this ASU team must avoid the “hangover” of such a monumental win.  They get their chance to continue their march to relevance when they visit Washington State in Pullman on Friday night.  Normally, Washington State is by default, a winnable game.  No so this year.  With a new coach, Washington State has sped up their style of play and will present a stiff challenge to ASU.  However, on paper, both of the Washington schools are “beatable”.  A sweep of the great Northwest would be a huge step for this program.  However, sticking to the formula that Devils in Detail believes is the key, ASU just needs to win at least one of these games.

The Sun Devils’ mental approach to this trip will be a solid indicator of how their season will finish.