Sunday was a tale of two halves for Herb Sendek’s Arizona State Sun Devils who bounced back from a slow start and clamped down defensively in the second half pulling away for a 65-56 Pac-12 win over Colorado, Sunday night at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe.
“The guys just played with a lot of heart,” Sendek said after ASU improved to 13-2, 2-0 in league play. “I don’t know if there’s a better word to depict our team [Sunday]. The defensive effort in the second half was outstanding.”
Things couldn’t have started worse for the Sun Devils as Colorado (10-4, 0-2) stormed out to a 17-4 lead on Askia Booker’s steal and layup. Following a Sendek timeout before the first official break ASU began to crawl back in the game. Junior center Jordan Bachynski’s dunk off a nice assist from reserve guard Chris Colvin cut the Buffs lead to 20-12. Bachynski tallied 10 first half points.
Another spark for ASU was wing Carrick Felix who also scored ten points on 4-7 shooting and 2-4 from behind the arc. His second three-pointer pulled the Devils within 25-19 and they closed the half strong trailing by only three 33-32. CU starting guard Spencer Dinwiddie paced the Buffs and led all first-half scorers with 12. Colorado shot 46.7% from the field, while ASU finished the first half at 45.8%.
The Sun Devils opened the second half aggressive at both ends of the floor. A Jonathan Gilling three followed by a Felix driving layup cut the lead to two 39-37 at the under 16-minute timeout. Colvin continued to be a spark off the bench drilling a corner three in front of the ASU bench giving ASU its biggest lead 44-41 with just under ten minutes to play.
The game stayed close and the Devils maintained their three-point lead at 46-43 at the 7:33 mark behind hustle plays at both ends and interior defense from the 7’2 Bachynski who finished with nine blacks. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson’s twisting layup (hist first points of the game), forced CU coach Tad Boyle to call timeout at the 5:21 mark with ASU up 48-43.
“JB did a really good job protecting the basket,” Felix said about Bachynski. “He’s one of the best shot blockers in the country. He’s a huge factor. You can’t teach seven [feet] two [inches].”
The Devils continued to stretch the lead which ballooned to 11 at 54-43 on Colvin’s twisting layup and foul. The Buffs finally extended their defensive pressure and pulled within 58-53 with just over a minute to play before two Bachynski free throws pushed the lead back to seven and the Devils coasted the rest of the way.
Felix led all scorers with 20 and Bachynski added 16. Gilling was the other Sun Devil in double figures with 12 and added 10 rebounds.
Sendek pointed to Felix’s toughness and aggressiveness as a turning point in the win.
“I don’t know if I’ve coached a guy with more heart,” he explained. “He never takes a second off.”
Dinwiddie led the Buffs with 19 points and Booker added 13 in the loss.
The Devils will look to stay perfect in conference play when they travel to Corvallis to take on Oregon State on Thursday night.