Arizona State has been plagued by a few key issues this season. The Sun Devils have struggled with turnovers and inconsistency on the offensive end. They have also struggled to close out games.
Of ASU's nine losses, seven of them have come have come by fewer than seven points. In the first half of the season, ASU struggled to put good teams away. On Saturday afternoon, the Sun Devils did just that, picking up their first conference victory of the season with a 78-72 win over Colorado.
"It was kind of a dog fight today and to come out on top, finally, after all of those close battles feels really good," Shaquielle McKissic said. "We made a decision in the huddle, that this one we are not going to lose, especially at home."
ASU head coach Herb Sendek had a simple answer for the reason his team pulled out a victory: The Sun Devils made shots.
"Tonight the ball went in the basket," Sendek said. "We made shots, it is amazing what that does. We shot 71 percent (in the second half), honestly that is my prevailing thought right now."
As a team, ASU shot 55 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point territory. Five Sun Devils scored in double figures and ASU had 20 assists as a team.
"We were executing on offense, we were 15-21 in the second half and we were getting good shots," Sendek said.
The Sun Devils started just 4-12 from the field and trailed Colorado 12-10 at the 10:44 mark of the first half. After a back-and-forth first half, the Arizona State used a 5-0 run to end the first half with a 29-28 lead. The half was capped off by a McKissic fast break dunk off a Colorado turnover.
McKissic totaled four rim rattling slams Saturday afternoon, none bigger than his posterization of Colorado freshman Tory Miller. With ASU down 45-43, Jonathan Gilling found McKissic with a backdoor pass and the senior forward did the rest.
"He was coming from the weak side, I already knew he was too late," said McKissic about Miller. "I didn't think he was going to still jump and then it was just one of those things. He (Miller) came on a visit last year and I begged him to come here. He chose Colorado, I didn't even know it was him until Bo (Barnes) told me after the game."
The Buffaloes and Sun Devils battled in the second half, as there was 19 lead changes total in the game. After two free throws from Xavier Tilton pulled Colorado within two with just over four minutes left, ASU responded with an 8-0 run to go up 70-60 with 1:14 left in the game.
The Sun Devils went 8-10 from the free throw line in the final minute of the game. For the game, Tra Holder went 8-10 from the free throw line and Gerry Blakes went 4-5. Holder played 31 minutes and scored 10 points and added six rebounds and six assists.
"Tra is the one guy on our roster who has played point guard exclusively through his career," Sendek said. "I think that helps him to be more comfortable.
Colorado made 3-point baskets on three consecutive possessions in the last minute of the game, but unlike in some previous games, ASU made the plays down the stretch to pull out a victory.