TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State has its first Pac-12 victory, and coach Herb Sendek said the reason is very simple.
“We made shots,” he said. “It’s amazing what that does.”
Bo Barnes sank three 3-pointers in a three-minute span late in the game and the Sun Devils pulled away to beat Colorado 78-72 on Saturday.
Shaquielle McKissic scored 16 to lead five players in double figures for the Sun Devils (9-9, 1-4 Pac-12). Barnes scored 13, going 4 for 6 from 3-point range.
“For these guys and myself as well, it was a sense of excitement to finally get one,” McKissic said, “because we work so hard in preparation and you never know how it’s going to go once the ball tips.”
Askia Booker, coming off a career-high 30-point game in the Buffaloes’ loss at No. 10 Arizona on Thursday, led Colorado (9-8, 2-3) with 21. Jaron Hopkins added 20.
The Sun Devils shot 71 percent (15 for 21) in a 49-point second half.
“Before the game,” McKissic said, “we came to grips with ourselves that we’re going to shoot every shot that was open. We passed up a few last time so, you know, just relax.”
Not that it was easy.
The Buffaloes stayed with the Sun Devils most of the way. Colorado also made 15 second-half field goals, but did it with 31 shots (48 percent).
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have won this basketball game,” Boyle said. “It’s always something and tonight it was our defense in the second half let us down.”
There were 12 second-half lead changes before Barnes’ 3 put Arizona State ahead for good 54-51 with 6:38 to play.
Overall, the Sun Devils were 16 of 24 from the free-throw line, but they made 10 of 12 in the final 1:14 to offset a late barrage of Colorado 3s. Tra Holder was 5 of 6 and Gerry Blakes 4 of 4.
“Those guys went to the line when the game was in the balance,” Sendek said, “and we needed every one of those.”
Barnes’ final 3-pointer ignited an 8-0 run that put the Sun Devils up 70-60 on a pair of free throws by Holder with 1:14 to play.
“Bo, as much as any player we had, in our huddles, interacting with his teammates, he really had a tremendous will to win today,” Sendek said.
The Buffaloes sank four 3s in the final minute.
Booker banked one in to make it 73-69 but Holder made a pair of free throws to boost the lead to 75-69. Hopkins made Colorado’s final 3 to pull within 75-72 with 23 seconds left.
Blakes made two free throws and Barnes added another to put it away.
McKissic’s four dunks energized his team.
“Once I got the first dunk, Bo threw me the alley-oop, then my juices got flowing,” he said. “I got more steals and more rebounds and it felt real good.”
Booker scored the last 12 Colorado points of the first half and his 3-pointer had the Buffaloes up 28-24 with 57 seconds left. But McKissic sank a 3-pointer, then Jonathan Gilling stole the ball and got it to McKissic for a dunk at the buzzer to give the Sun Devils a 29-28 lead.
It was the first time in five Pac-12 games that the Sun Devils led at the half.
Despite the loss, Boyle thought his team showed progress on offense.
“We shot a little over 46 percent tonight, we’ll take that,” Boyle said. “And 10 for 21 3s, we’ll take that. So we made some strides but our defense wasn’t good enough in the second half.”
Arizona State: Shaquielle McKissic’s most impressive dunk came over freshman Tory Miller, who was recruited by Arizona State. …. The Sun Devils trailed by an average of 12 points at the half in their first four Pac-12 games.
Colorado: The Buffaloes were without Josh Scott (back) and Xavier Johnson (ankle) for the second game in a row. … Colorado is 0-6 on the road this season. … Askia Booker was 9-of-22 shooting, Hopkins 7-of-11.
Colorado returns home to face Washington on Thursday night.
Arizona State travels to California on Thursday.
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