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ASU basketball: Senior guards catch fire from deep, lead Sun Devils to a big victory

It was raining 3’s in the Bank

NCAA Basketball: Colorado at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado (12-10, 4-6 Pac-12) called a timeout.

ASU guard Tra Holder ran over to fellow senior Shannon Evans and “slapped him on the butt.”

“Seniors,” Holder yelled to Evans. “That’s what we do.”

The sharp-shooting duo had just swung the momentum of the game with five flicks of the wrist.

It started to become déjà vu for the 13,943 on hand at “The Bank,” as 3-pointers rained down like a hurricane. ASU (16-5, 4-5) was down four with under 11 minutes to play and then the barrage from downtown began.

Holder 3-pointer.

Holder 3-pointer.

Evans 3-pointer.

Holder 3-pointer.

Evans 3-pointer.

Queue the timeout.

Evans would add ASU’s ninth and 10th 3-pointers of the half soon after the timeout to seal ASU’s 80-66 win over Colorado. The 21st-ranked Sun Devils’ second half outburst from beyond the arc came after the Devils failed to connect from downtown in the game’s first 20 minutes, their first half of the season without a triple.

Evans said once the first 3 goes in, then everyone gets hot. He later confirmed the age-old myth of contagious shooting.

“It is,” Evans said. “It’s like the basketball gods, they see one go in and they’re like, ‘alright, everybody’s going to make a shot now.’”

All five before the timeout came in a matter of 2:37. It was one of those textbook ASU bursts — only there was a catch — it came against a Pac-12 opponent.

ASU buried Kansas State, Xavier and Kansas with shooting displays those in the building could only marvel at. They helped guide ASU to a 12-0 record and a No. 3 ranking.

The lack of those bursts during conference season, however, was one of the key contributors to the Devils’ struggles during Pac-12 play and their slip in the rankings.

ASU was in a slump. The senior guards responsible for giving ASU its “Guard U” title weren’t themselves.

Before Saturday, Holder was only averaging 16.1 points in conference play, three less than his season total. The Los Angeles native had a five-game stretch that started at Utah in which he didn’t score over 15 points. He had 23 on Thursday and 22 on Saturday.

Evans was in a similar boat. His conference scoring average was just about two points worse than his season average. He hadn’t hit the 15-point mark in any of his three previous games.

“I think the seniors and everybody have to step up to the challenge,” Holder said. “We haven’t been playing well and efficient on offense, so I think we tried to do that and we did.”

The pair, which tops ASU’s scoring charts this season, are a big reason why the Devils racked big-time wins and enjoyed the flurry of national attention that came their way.

The ebbs and flows of ASU’s season have followed a similar path to the success of Holder and Evans. Now, that isn’t to say that ASU can’t win without a big game from either. They can and they have.

But, for the resurgence that ASU needs to climb up the conference ladder and boost its seeding come March, the Sun Devils can’t afford another slump from the two.

No one can know if ASU, or Holder and Evans, will fall victim to another slump. What is known however, according to coach Bobby Hurley, is that this team can break out of it.

“These players are too good for us to not be able to do that,” Hurley said. “You don’t do it for two months and then it just goes away. You see it again. Will they have those type of runs where everyone is making them in the second half? You hope.

“But it sure felt good for me to see numerous guys make big shots throughout that half.”