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ESPN’s Borzello: Tra Holder is the key to success for Arizona State

Arizona State guard Tra Holder (0) shoots over Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. Holder scored 29 points in the game. Arizona State defeated Kansas 95-85. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

To win in March, it takes a star guard. For the first half of the college basketball season, many believed Arizona State had one in senior Tra Holder.

However, a shooting slump and the team’s 3-4 start in conference play have stifled that discussion. In his most recent Wooden Watch, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello listed Holder as the player whose stock is falling.

Holder’s struggles have coincided with Arizona State’s Pac-12 slump, but that’s probably not a coincidence. Holder was the catalyst for the Sun Devils’ huge nonconference success, scoring 40 points against Xavier and then dropping 29 points and seven assists on Kansas. Heading into conference play, Holder had a case as a first-team All-American.

Sporting the moniker ‘Guard U’, the Sun Devils rolled through their nonconference schedule behind a three-pronged attack consisting of Kodi Justice and Shannon Evans with Holder at the forefront. The trio was averaging a combined 52.9 points per game with Holder’s 21.5 points leading the Pac-12.

Over the past five games Holder has struggled to find his shot, converting on 15 of his last 57 attempts, a 26.3 percent clip. The Sun Devils have coincidingly scored no more than 81 points during this span.

While Holder has lost his luster, Evans and Justice have continued to produce but the energy difference on the floor is noticeable. During their 12-0 start, the Sun Devils had a swagger to them that showed in losses to Arizona and Colorado but has since dissipated.

In need of a weekend sweep, the team returns home to take on Utah and Colorado.

ASU is 29-14 at Wells Fargo Arena under head coach Bobby Hurley. With seven of their final 11 games at home, both the Sun Devils and Holder have a chance to turn things around.

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