The Arizona State Sun Devils face their final opponent in their three-game road stretch Sunday in the Colorado Buffalos after falling to both Utah and Arizona by more than thirty points.
Despite beating two ranked opponents this season in Texas A&M and UCLA, the Sun Devils have shown an unbelievable regression in their last three matchups and hope to change the tide Sunday in Boulder.
To do so, the Sun Devils, a now .500 team, will have to beat an opponent ranked fifth in the Pac-12, and one that has previously taken down Arizona, California and Oregon, the No.1, No. 3 and No. 4 best teams in the conference, currently.
Tip-off: 2:30 p.m. MST
Television: Pac-12 Networks
Arizona State Update (14-14, 4-11 Pac-12):
ASU is coming off an embarrassing 81-46 loss at Utah, and the Sun Devils have lost three games in a row, a situation strikingly similar to last season when ASU traveled to Salt Lake City and was humiliated in an 83-41 loss that started their demise (and the end of the Herb Sendek era).
With only eight scholarship players remaining on the team, the Sun Devils looked lifeless against the Utes, shooting 25 percent from the field, 22 percent from beyond the arc and 68 percent from the charity stripe. Gerry Blakes was the only player in double-digit scoring for the Sun Devils, just making the mark with 10 points.
In terms of reincarnating the morale behind the team that began this season, the Sun Devils face a must-win tonight in order to avoid letting the remainder of the 2016 season slip away from them.
Colorado Update (20-9, 9-7 Pac-12):
The Buffalos are coming off a 75-72 win over Arizona at home, which allowed them to avoid a three-game losing streak of their own after losses to both UCLA and USC last week.
Senior Forward Josh Scott scored a season-high 26 points in the matchup and overcame two late turnovers in the final minute that almost saw the Buffs slip into the losing column.
Colorado shot 45 percent from the field in the second half, with Scott, guard George King, and guard Josh Fortune all in double figures with 26, 14 and 13 points, respectively.
The Buffalos are 16-2 at home this season, losing only to SMU and Utah and winning the last seven consecutive home games.
Keys to victory:
1. Force them outside
The Buffalos aren't afraid to take the outside shot, however they only made five three-pointers against the Wildcats, relying on their 34 points in the paint for the victory. The Sun Devils always seem to get ahead early when they force opponents outside, as ASU has a knack for hitting three's early in a contest to take the early advantage if the competition starts along the perimeter.
2. Offensive Boards
This is how ASU beat No. 23 UCLA. An advantage on the offensive boards will eliminate second chance points, something the Buffalos relied on with their 17 second-chance points in the matchup against Arizona that made the difference in the end.
ASU cannot dole out second chances, but needs to rake in some of their own if they hope to beat an opponent that has only lost two home games this season.
3. Stay out of foul trouble
Notorious for racking up the fouls early in a matchup, ASU needs to be mindful of early fouls that could send their already diminished roster to the bench before the final buzzer sounds. Eight scholarship players is already a feat, but add in two quick fouls on any player and Hurley will have to do some serious reconfiguring from the start of this one.
Prediction: Colorado 78, Arizona State 66