Tra Holder (USA Today)

Holder's strong second half propels Sun Devils to 86-75 win over Huskies

Arizona State junior guard Tra Holder had two points in the first half, but was crucial for ASU down the stretch, exploding for 21 second-half points.

Tra Holder pounded his chest and screamed out. 

Hitting his third-straight three-pointer with 6:10 left in the second half, Holder had given ASU its largest lead in the game. But he wasn't done yet. 

With a gritty Washington squad fighting to cut the Sun Devils lead in the waning minutes of Wednesday's late night contest, Holder lulled the Huskies defense to sleep before driving down the lane to cap off his own 11-point run for ASU. 

Finishing with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting on the night after having only two points in the first half, Holder's second half heroics propelled the Sun Devils to a 86-75 win over the Huskies. 

"Tra Holder was terrific with his 11-straight points at a crucial time for us in the game," ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. "He really took over the game. He was really clutch and had that great look in his eye and he really delivered." 

With the win in front of 5,129 in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena, ASU improved to 10-11 overall and 3-5 in Pac-12 play. The Sun Devils broke their four-game losing streak and got their first win since Jan. 5 against the Colorado Buffaloes. 

"We had to step up and try to get a win here and now we have to try to get one Sunday as well," ASU junior guard Shannon Evans said. "Try to keep piling these wins together and try to climb back to the top of the Pac."

With the loss, UW dropped to 9-11, 2-6 on the season. Pac-12 leading scorer Markelle Fultz had a 28-point performance, scoring 18 points in the final 5:10 of the second half. Fultz had been averaging 33.7 points in UW's prior three games.

"It's tough," Evans said. "He (Fultz) is 6-foot-5. He's fast, athletic. He uses his teammates well and scores. He's a great player. He's young and has a bright future ahead of him." 

Despite Fultz's breakout final minutes, ASU was able to hold UW's star guard to only eight points in the first half, six points of which came late off back-to-back three-pointers. The next closest Husky was forward Matisse Thybulle who had 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. 

"Shannon did an unbelievable job (guarding Fultz)," Holder said. "I was just trying to be there on the help side just in case he may have had a mistake and got beat and I would be there to help him."

In addition to Evans' defense on Fultz, Evans ended the game with 23 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field. He had eleven points in the first half alone. And when Evans' production started to fade in the second half, it was his fellow guard who stepped up for the Sun Devils. 

"My teammates and the coaching staff encouraged me to come in and knock down shots because I really wasn't doing as much as I could have in the first half," Holder said. "But I was thankful for my teammates to believe in me and I was lucky I got those shots to fall." 

Before Holder's strong second half, the Sun Devils struggled in the first half with poor shooting from both teams as ASU fell behind early 7-0. However, ASU managed to keep the game close riding off the momentum of Evans’ crossover pull up three-point jumper over UW guard Dominic Green to start an ASU 8-0 run with 13:25 to go in the first half.

"Not really often, but I hope it makes top 10," Evans said about how much he has practiced that move in the past. 

By halftime, ASU held a 34-29 lead behind 11 points from Evans and seven points from ASU senior forward Torian Graham. The Huskies shot only 28.6 percent from the field in the first half on 11-of-26 shooting. The Sun Devils shot 38.5 percent on 11-of-30 from the field.

"Holding them to 30 percent was big," Hurley said. "Our offense wasn't in a great spot. We didn't make shots. We were kind of stagnant with the zone. We didn't play the best we were capable of at that end, but because we guarded and got stops and created some turnovers we had a good solid advantage going into half."

And when Washington came out of its zone in the second half, that was when Holder and ASU's offense was able to break out of its shell. 

"We started making shots and they got out of their zone and when they did that we went to high ball screens with him (Holder) and he hit one and then he worked the high ball screen and hit another and we just kept trying to milk that because we had the advantage there and he was feeling and it was great for him," Hurley said.

In addition to containing the potential No. 1 NBA draft pick in Fultz and the strong play from both ASU guards, Graham finished the night with 17 points on only 4-of-13 shooting from the field.

Graham came into the night second in the Pac-12 in scoring, averaging 18.8 per game. Prior to Wednesday's performance, Graham had a 24-point game in ASU's 82-79 loss to USC Sunday night. 

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