The Arizona State Sun Devils got off to a slow start in their Pac-12 home opener against the Colorado Buffaloes. Arizona State went the first 3:23 without scoring.
The excitement that ensued in the last 10 minutes of the game resulting in a 78-77 ASU win made up for the start.
The first few minutes of the game was filled with sloppy passes and turnovers from Bobby Hurley’s squad.
It was a monster block from senior Obinna Oleka that gave the Sun Devils (9-7, 2-1 in Pac-12) life on the offensive end. They scored on five straight possessions following it.
Colorado was able to tie things up at 32 all after going on a 7-0 run.
The “excitement” of the first half didn’t happen until the last three minutes of the half when ASU freshman Jethro Tshisumpa and Colorado sophomore Xavier Johnson got into a scuffle under the basket.
Both players were given flagrant-2 fouls and ejected form the game. Johnson was Colorado’s leading scorer at the time he left with 13 points.
Tshisumpa wasn’t having a bad night either racking up two points and three blocks in just eight minutes.
“I’m happy for Jethro,” Hurley said. “He’s going to take a few steps forwards and a half a step back, that’s his learning curve.”
With Tshisumpa out, Hurley was left only six scholarship players deep because forward Andre Adams was already out because of tendinitis in his knee.
“Sometimes you don’t have a bunch of guys,” Hurley said. “All you need is the right guys, and we have the right guys right now.”
The first half was an unselfish one for the Sun Devils, with all active players scoring.
The second half started off much smoother for ASU, due in part to a Tra Holder’s quick three point shot.
However, it seemed that anytime the Sun Devils were able to build up a lead, the Buffs came screaming back.
Colorado went on a 6-0 run with 11 minutes to go cutting ASU’s lead to just one point 57-56.
With eight minutes to go Colorado went on another 6-0 run. The Buffaloes were racking up second chance points due to the Sun Devils standing and watching the boards.
Colorado also used the charity stripe to their advantage, going 14-for-15 from the line in the second half alone.
The final minutes of the game went back and forth, with 14 lead changes in the last 11 minutes.
With 5:37 to go one of Hurley’s two options down low, Ramon Vila, fouled out, leaving Oleka with all the work in the paint.
Kodi Justice helped extend the Sun Devils’ lead by blocking a shot, stealing the ball and then converting on the other end to give ASU a 71-68 cushion.
Shannon Evans II came up big with two straight shots to keep ASU one point ahead 76-75.
With 45 seconds remaining, ASU got caught watching yet again, allowing Colorado to snag another offensive board. Derrick White laid the ball in giving Colorado a 77-76 lead with 16 seconds left in regulation.
Torian Graham took a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining, it rimmed out. Tra Holder went for the offensive board and got fouled- sending him to the lie with 1.6 seconds to go.
He made both shots. Winning the game for ASU.
“Big time players make big time plays in big time games,” Graham said. “We needed that.”
Player of the Game: Tra Holder- while he was relatively quiet tonight on the offensive end, great players come up big in big moments. That is exactly what Holder did. He demonstrated scrappy play and an extreme will to win that played off for him and his team- big time.
Honorable Mention: Derrick White, the Colorado senior led his team in scoring and assists with 35 and five. He was also a strong force on the boards grabbing five rebounds.
Stat of the Night: 10 turnovers — the Sun Devils only gave the ball away 10 times. Combined, Evans and Holder only turned the ball over three times. Their ball control especially down the stretch won the game for the Sun Devils.
Up Next: The Sun Devils take on Utah at home on Saturday at 3 p.m.