Sun Devils Notch First Conference Win

Up until today the Pac-12 slate hasn’t been kind to Arizona State, but on Saturday afternoon the Sun Devils won their first conference game beating the Colorado Buffaloes. 78-72.

Saturday afternoon’s contest began slow without much scoring but in the later parts of the second half both ASU (9-9, 1-4 Pac-12) and Colorado (9-8, 2-3) exploded from the three-point line.

The Sun Devils’ part of that eruption from three started with about seven minutes remaining in the game as Bo Barnes and Jon Gilling made back-to-back three-pointers that put ASU ahead 57-53.

About two minutes later Barnes connected from outside again to the move the score to 60-55. A minute after that three-point connection Barnes hit one more from behind the arc, registering the score at 65-60 with 3:58 left in the game.

Barnes finished the game with 13 points. All but one of those points came from beyond the arc.

“He really had a tremendous will to win today,” Herb Sendek said.

“Bo as a senior I thought really imposed his will on his teammates and helped give them confidence. He was a real leader today in our huddles interacting with his teammates.”

Colorado’s time to shine behind the arc came with 55 seconds left in the second half. Within that last minute of the game Colorado made a three-pointer on four consecutive possessions.

The Sun Devils were able to keep the Buffaloes at bay and secure the win by going seven for eight after all four of Colorado’s made threes.

“It’s an area we need to be better in but I thought we made some clutch ones,” Sendek said of his team’s late game free throw shooting.

“Gerry, Tra, those guys went to the line when the game hung in the balance and we needed every one of those.”

ASU was supported by its late game free throw shooting but the Sun Devils were also aided greatly by the absence of Colorado juniors Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott. Both players sat out of the game due to injury.

Johnson’s inactivity in particular was a service to ASU because Colorado not much unlike the Sun Devils tends to have a light amount of off-ball movement on offense.

When that is the state of a team’s offensive identity it needs a scorer who can get his own shots. In past matchups with ASU the young man taking those shots has been Johnson.

With his absence, Askia Booker, Colorado’s senior guard took responsibility for the shot taking and making.

Through a combination of penetrations toward the basket and shots from deep Booker tallied 14 points in the first half.

Booker continued his shot taking in the second half shooting 13 times, but the making took a dramatic descent as the senior only converted three of those 13 shots.

Although Booker was the game’s leading scorer with 21 points, keeping him in check proved to be quite pertinent for the Sun Devils.

Shaquielle McKissic led ASU in points Saturday afternoon. Scoring 16 points on seven for 11 shooting.

McKissic had four notable crowd inspiring dunks on the day. Beyond accounting for eight points, those dunks ignited an abundance of energy into the crowd. Energy that the Sun Devils’ players feed off rather evidently.

On McKissic’s first dunk, he leaped into the air as Barnes was throwing an alley-oop in his direction. The pass however was slightly mistimed, therefore McKissic started his descent to the floor before the oop was completed.

But being the athletic individual that he is, the fifth-year senior caught the ball and threw it down for an agile dunk. McKissic said that first dunk got his “juices flowing” after a shaky start.

His next two dunks consisted of a buzzer beating breakaway before halftime and a dunk in mild traffic after the wingman shot faked and dribbled baseline.

All three of those dunks uplifted the crowd and consequentially the Sun Devils’ play. That energy is one of the main things McKissic pointed to as the key to ASU’s victory.

The exclamation point on the afternoon’s victory was likely McKissic getting the ball in interior, rising up and dunking on Colorado freshmen Tory Miller’s chest.

After the game McKissic said he had brief conversation with the young man who was metaphorically laid to rest on that play.

McKissic said Miller told him, “Imma hit you up later.”

McKissic and Miller had a previous relationship from when the freshman visited Arizona State last year.

No doubt the Colorado player was left with a bit of a salty taste in his mouth after the game and the Sun Devils will continue to try and leave the rest of its opponents with that “hit you up later” sense going forward.

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