No. 21 ASU basketball returns to the hardwood Saturday night taking on the Colorado Buffaloes for the second time this season.
Coming off of what could be called a “gut-punch” defeat at the hands of the Utah Utes, each of ASU’s matchups can be classified as must-win from here on out. Against the Utes, the Sun Devils failed to stop the dynamic duo of Justin Bibbins and Sedrick Barefield in route to their fifth Pac-12 conference loss.
On Jan. 4, the then fourth-ranked Sun Devils were defeated by the Buffaloes in Boulder 90-81. The overtime loss was one of the most shocking upsets of the season and ASU’s second loss after starting 12-0.
Colorado put together an impressive display of effort and hustle that night, and it’s safe to assume the same will be done in Tempe this Saturday. The Buffaloes have mustered a 4-5 record in Pac-12 play and are currently in the middle of the conference standings.
After another disappointing loss against an unranked team, ASU falls to 3-5 in conference play. Despite the defeat there were positives to be taken from their latest loss. For the first time in four games, Tra Holder looked like himself. After scoring 23 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing four assists, Holder’s finally back on track.
Against the Buffaloes this Saturday expect the Devils to try and turn up the tone defensively. Throughout conference play the Sun Devils have been dominated down the stretch of games, struggling to rebound and defend at a consistent level.
The key to a defensive improvement, and a win, for the Devils will be shutting down McKinley Wright IV (14.9 points per game and 5.0 assists per game) and George King (14.6 PPG and 8.0 rebounds per game). Against ASU on Jan. 4, Wright and King combined for 37 points and out-hustled Bobby Hurley’s squad at every turn.
Saturday’s matchup against the Buffs will act as one of the most important games of the season for ASU. A win for the Devils would improve their conference record to 4-5 and give them a chance to turn things around while they still can.