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ASU jumps out to early lead but can’t finish in loss to No. 20 Colorado

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley reacts to a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Peaks and valleys.

That sums up Thursday night for the Arizona State Sun Devils as they fell 68-61 to the No. 20 Colorado Buffaloes.

The score reads otherwise but it was the Sun Devils, not the Buffaloes, who looked like the lone ranked team on the Desert Financial Arena court for half of the first 20 minutes of play.

Behind the play of junior guard Remy Martin and a heightened defense around the rim, ASU went right at Colorado from the tip, jumping out to a 12-3 lead in about six minutes of action.

But just as it looked like the Sun Devils had the upper hand on the visitors, the Buffaloes found their stroke from deep.

Riding the hot hand of forward Lucas Siewert, who was 3-of-4 from 3-point range in the first half, Colorado had little trouble trimming ASU’s lead, using five 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes to get the score to 17-16. All but one point, a made free throw, was from beyond the arc.

During that 3-point barrage, the Sun Devils’ scoring attack fell silent, missing 12 of their 18 field goal attempts to end the half tied 28-28. The Sun Devils led for just under 16 minutes of the half.

“I give Colorado a lot of credit defensively, I thought they did a really good job,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said after the game. “They’re a very good defensive team and they showed it tonight.”

Whatever was left of that first-half control vanished in the second half as the Sun Devils saw their shooting percentage dwindle, while the Buffaloes poured it on.

Opening up the half with a 16-4 run, the Buffaloes turned a tie game into a 44-32 advantage over the Sun Devils in less than 10 minutes. For Hurley and Co., the damage was self-inflicted.

“There were turnovers, guys leaving their feet and not having a play and then passing it to them,” Hurley said. “There were some missed shots, it was kinda of a mixture of a lot of things. It was more the turnovers that were more of a surprise with me, even at the half to have nine.

“I think we could have been in better shape in the game if we took care of the ball better. When you have that many guards on the floor at one time like we do at times, you would hope that wouldn’t be a major issue but it was tonight.”

All told, the Sun Devils committed 14 turnovers to the Buffaloes’ 13.

The 12-point difference would be near the height of Colorado’s lead, however, as ASU manufactured a few shots late to keep the Buffaloes from blowing the doors off.

Highlighted by a 3-pointer from senior guard Rob Edwards, ASU cut the deficit down to just five points with 7:07 left to play. But that would be as close as the Sun Devils would come to knocking off the Buffaloes, with Colorado pushing the lead back up to double digits with about two minutes remaining.

The inability to have that third scoring option down the stretch impacted the Sun Devils yet again in the loss as only Martin (25 points) and junior forward Romello White (19) finished the game in double figures. Outside of their combined 44-point effort, the rest of the team accounted for just 17 points.

“We’re trying different things, we’ve shaken the lineup up, we’ve tried to build them up confidence-wise and not a lot of follow through, just consistently so,” Hurley said when asked about getting other guys going in the offense. “We knew we would struggle for points. I think this game I had a feeling this was going to be a fairly low scoring game and that’s what it delivered to us.”

Martin may have led the way in scoring, but it was White who made the most of his looks, making 75% of his shots (9-of-12) and grabbing 10 boards for his sixth double-double of the season.

“We were trying [to feed White] in the second half and we knew he had it going,” Hurley said of the big man. “[Colorado forward Evan Battey] was very physical and getting him off his position. There weren’t a lot of clean looks but I was hoping he got more touches and got the ball a little bit more.”

The defeat marks the third Pac-12 loss in four games for the Sun Devils, while the Buffaloes move to 3-1 in conference play.

“We can’t put too much stock into this and over dwell on it, we’ve got another game on Saturday, we’ve got to rally the troops and get ready for that,” Hurley said.

“It’s been a tough stretch, we’ve had three of our last four against ranked opponents and we would have liked to have another win or two certainly, but got to be ready to play on Saturday now.”

ASU will look to rid itself of the bad taste of Thursday night with a home bout against the Utah Utes. The Utes enter Desert Financial Arena following a 93-77 loss to the Arizona Wildcats.

Catch all of Saturday’s action live on 620 ESPN AM.


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