The Arizona State basketball team rebounded from back-to-back losses to push past a pesky Colgate team 78-71 on Saturday night. The Sun Devils led by 13 at halftime, but the Raiders closed to within three points with just over a minute left before Arizona State put the game away.
"This was a good team we played tonight," said head coach Herb Sendek. "I go by the eye test, when I watch the game they are a good team."
Both teams struggled from the field to start the game, as Colgate started 1-6 and ASU started just 2-5. The Sun Devils led 24-22 with 5:34 left in the first half and responded with a 19-8 run to end the first half with a 43-30 lead.
However, the Raiders punched back with a 10-3 run to open the second half to pull within six points.
"I was really pleased with the way we finished the half and we talked about getting off to a good start in the second half," said Sendek. "Alarmingly, we have these stretches, especially in second halves, where we just have a hard time getting stops. We have to have much greater attention to detail on the defensive end."
On the offensive end, Gerry Blakes paced the Sun Devils. The junior scored a game-high 23 points on 9-15 shooting and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
"Gerry Blakes continues to establish himself as a threat offensively," said Sendek. "Not only to score but to get other guys shots."
The junior college transfer has scored in double figures in three straight games after a slow start to the season. In his last two games, Blakes is averaging 22 points and 8.5 rebounds.
"Give credit to my coaches to put in a good position to contribute to the team," said Blakes. "I've had my highs and lows, but honestly that is the game of basketball. I just want to stay even keeled regardless of whether I am doing, good or bad."
Colgate hung around with the Sun Devils till the very end. The Raiders shot 53 percent in the second half and shot 9-18 for the game beyond the arc. Guard Austin Tillotson led Colgate with 22 points and Luke Roh added 14 points and six rebounds.
With the Sun Devils clinging to a three-point lead with under a minute to play, Tra Holder drove to his left and put in a double-clutch layup to give ASU a 75-70 lead. With Kodi Justice injured and Roosevelt Scott missing in action due to personal reasons, Holder stepped up with a career-high 11 points and three assists.
"Tra Holder really rebounded well after some ups and downs in Kansas City," said Sendek. "I think he showed some things that will allow us to get excited about his future as a Sun Devil tonight."
The Sun Devils recorded their final three points of the game at the free throw line, hitting 3-4 to end the game. After two closes losses, where the team struggled down the stretch, ASU made key plays late in the game to pull out the victory.
"When you are supposed to win, and the game is tight, and you've just lost two close games, men of lesser constitution could easily have crumpled," said Sendek. "It wouldn't have been unthinkable to come unglued. You are playing a freshman point guard, your off-guard is in his sixth game for you, we have a number of new guys. Every day when you look at the ESPN ticker you say 'wow, look who beat so-and-so."'
After two straight losses and the UNLV Rebels coming to town on Wednesday, Gerry Blakes new the importance of getting the victory Saturday night.