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ASU Basketball: Tra Holder and Kodi Justice combine for 36 points to propel ASU to first conference win

The dynamic duo was at it again tonight, combining for over a third of ASU's total points to give the Sun Devils an 84-73 win over Washington State and its first win in the Pac-12.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils ended their three-game skid in Tempe on Thursday, claiming their first conference victory of the season with a 84-73 victory over the Washington State Cougars.

"It's great to get our first conference win," Head Coach Bobby Hurley said. "I thought our defense was really solid. I think we have a chance to continue to play well and play better. It's also nice to see us get off to a good start in a game and build a lead in the first half and have them chase us most of the game because we've been playing from behind too much early in games."

The Cougars forced the Sun Devils outside early, but ASU forward Obinna Oleka cashed in on two early threes to get the crowd going for ASU.

"I thought Obi starting off well was big for us," Kodi Justice said. "He hit a couple big shots, got a couple offensive rebounds and that was huge because he started slow in the Pac-12 early and we've always been trying to battle back so him coming up with big shots got us going."

The Sun Devils were able to handle the Cougars' full-court press but struggled to get shots inside the paint.

"I think they didn't score for the first five possessions and that's been our key for the past couple of days is getting back to that defensive mindset," Tra Holder said.

Both teams traded buckets throughout the first ten minutes of the half until a Kodi Justice three sparked a 16-2 run over the course of five minutes that catapulted the Sun Devils ahead 29-15 with five minutes left in the half.

For the fifth straight game, point guard Tra Holder was already in double digits at halftime, aided by two back-to-back, wide-open looks behind the arc that contributed to the run.

With three minutes to play in the half it was Justice stuffing Cougar forward Robert Franks at the rim to send the crowd into a roar that elicited another block by Goodman on the following possession. Up 40-25 at halftime, ASU only had 8 points in the paint but was shooting 40 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc.

Washington State's shots began to fall in the second half, as they went on their own 10-0 run with the exclamation point a corner three from WSU guard Charles Callison. The Cougars dug themselves out of a 15-point hole over a three-minute span to creep back within five.

However it was the dynamic duo of Holder and Justice increased the lead again after Holder drove through a crowded lane to draw the foul and add the and-1, while Justice nailed triples from way out to put his team back up 59-45 with 11:20 to play.

"Tra draws a lot of attention, scoring 20 points the last five games so I know the scouting reports for him is pressure up on him and find him," Justice said.  "So when he gets around the corner and I'm open he finds me, gives me easy buckets, gets me going and then we can get each other going and we can find Andre (Spight) and Obi and Savon and get them going and then that's when we get going on defense."

From there Justice couldn't miss. With 7:58 left to play Justice flew down court on a fast break and fed forward Willie Atwood with a no-look, behind-the-back pass for a monstrous dunk that sent the maroon and gold into a frenzy, the momentum clearly back on their side.

"I just saw Willie running the floor hard and I thought that you gotta reward the big for running, so I had to find a way to get it to him and the only way I felt like I could was throwing it behind my back and I got it to him and he threw it down so it was a big play for us and got us going," Justice said. "If I can get the crowd going, that's the best thing about basketball because then they can help us win."

And it would be there that the momentum would stay, the Sun Devils' hot shooting, backed by Justice's relentless attack was too much for the Cougars' to conquer as ASU secured the win after falling to them by one possession last season.

For the fifth straight game, Holder collected 20-plus points, while Justice racked up 16 points, including four threes.

"I love the creativity that (Justice) shows with his passing," Hurley said. "I think that was the one moment that the building was at its peak today with the behind-the-back pass to Willie."

The Sun Devils will look to continue their winning ways against Washington on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. MST and the Pac-12 Networks will have the broadcast.