Torrid Shooting Devils upset Cats

Saturday afternoon’s matchup between Arizona State and sixth ranked Arizona was not supposed to be a close affair. ASU not only made it a close game throughout, but ultimately beat U of A 81-78—and today the Sun Devils didn’t need overtime to do it. Instead, ASU turned in what was without question its best offensive performance of the season.

Four of the team’s players finished in double figures and it seemed as if the scoring baton was passed from teammate to teammate as the game ticked on.

Bo Barnes led ASU with 18 points Saturday. The biggest of Barnes’ 18 came on ASU’s last field goal of the game.

With 54 seconds remaining Barnes knocked down a three-pointer to put ASU up 75-68.

Barnes along with Eric Jacobsen went on to finish out the next minute of play shooting six for six from the free throw line.

It cannot be overstated how critical those made free throws were, however the Barnes three was really the moment of truth that signaled U of A was headed toward an unexpected loss.

That dagger of realization was assisted by Tra Holder who continued to mature on the court before everyone’s eyes.

“I give him credit for going out and controlling the game as a freshman,” Savon Goodman said.

Holder registered 15 points and eight assists against Arizona.

In two separate instances after the game Goodman and Barnes complimented Holder’s characteristic as a pass first point guard.

“Tra did a great job of driving and collapsing his guy,” Barnes said.

Savon Goodman later added, “We just have to close out our man and look for the ball.”

Goodman was indeed able to close out his man deep within the paint and that contributed to the transfer’s 15 points and four offensive rebounds.

Holder once again kept his dribble as he penetrated the painted area Saturday. This is a big deal because ASU previously struggled to get entry passes into the post as it swung the ball around the perimeter.

Whereas now Holder is in the interior with his frontcourt teammates and is therefore able to precisely bounce passes to the likes of Goodman and Jacobsen for easy dunks. Or kick it out to a wide open man behind the three-point line.

Although the freshman’s assist to Barnes with less than a minute remaining was likely his most important of the game he demonstrated his ability to assist when a help-side defender rotated toward him more candidly earlier in the contest.

Near the end of the first half Holder dribbled into the paint and saw nothing was there after a mild defensive collapse by U of A. He consequentially kicked it out to Bo Barnes for a made three pointer.

Holder also has shown the ability to finish at the hoop. However in the later stages of the game although it was very easy for the point guard to get within the basket’s vicinity, the freshman was not able to convert as the opposing center often rotated over to negate an easy layup.

There is a fine line between forcing up shots and performing a duty the team needs. Holder’s three for 10 shooting may suggest forced shots, but most of them were tough interior attempts that had to be taken by someone and just failed to go down.

If the U of A game was a 4x100 meter relay where each of ASU’s four players in double figures took the baton and ran with it as the team’s scoring leader for a brief period, Gerry Blakes was the pop off runner.

In the game’s earliest stages Blakes did what many saw him do both efficiently and inefficiently at the beginning of the season—using the most of his two allotted steps on his way toward the hoop for contested layups. And the Sun Devils needed all 14 of his points to withstand Arizona’s offensive outbursts as well.

Saturday’s win over Arizona was a mixture of all the offensive virtues ASU has at its disposal. Gerry Blakes drove to the basket early, Holder continued the penetration by getting his own buckets along with assisting on others throughout and Barnes sunk three-pointers late to bring the game home.

“It’s a great day for our guys,” Herb Sendek said afterward. “On a day like today I’m happy for them.”

Although one person who Sendek may need to be concerned about is Shaquielle McKissic. The wingman left the game with what appeared to be a foot injury in the second half.

The fifth-year senior would return to the bench but not to the game.

Arizona State will look to build upon its second straight home win over the Wildcats when the team goes on the road to matchup with the Washington State Cougars Friday.

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