Barnes, McKissic deliver ASU’s first Pac-12 win

ASU's Shaquielle McKissic dunks over Colorado forward Tory Miller during the second half Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena. The Sun Devils won 78-72.

Joe Camporeale

TEMPE, Ariz. — Bo Barnes and Shaquielle McKissic played a shooting game at practice Friday and McKissic was not afraid to acknowledge the results.

"He kind of drug me up and down the court," McKissic said with a smile, "so I expected him to make all of them that he took" Saturday.

Barnes came close, and what he was not making on one end he seemed to be affecting on the other. Barnes needed only six shots to score 13 points and he made four 3-pointers, three in a three-minute stretch of the second half when Arizona State opened up a cushion to take a 78-72 victory over Colorado at Wells Fargo Arena.

The Sun Devils (9-9, 1-4 Pac-12) shot 55.3 percent and were hotter than that in the second half, making 15 of 21 field goals. They secured the victory converting 11 of 14 free throws in the final 1:27.

"It’s always good (to) show them we can do this, that we’re good enough to play in this league," senior forward Jonathan Gilling said.

ASU’s conference record is a bit deceiving, in that the Sun Devils played three of their first five on the road and already played Associated Press top 10 teams Arizona and Utah. The travel will not change next week, however, as they play at California and Stanford.

In addition putting the ball in the basket against Colorado, Barnes spent most of the second half covering Buffaloes shooting point guard Askia Booker, who had a career-high 30 points in a 68-54 loss at Arizona on Thursday.

Booker had a game-high 21 on Saturday but was 9 of 22 from the field. He made three of his final 13 field goal attempts, many defended by Barnes, and one of those was a forced 3 that banked it when the Buffaloes were in desperation mode in the final minute.

ASU 78, Colorado 72

"Bo really had a tremendous will to win today," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "It was important to all of us, but Bo as a senior really imposed his will on his teammates and helped give them confidence. He was a real leader today in our huddles, interacting with his teammates."

Like Barnes, McKissic also seemed to benefit from the one-on-one session. He led the Sun Devils with 16 points and was a scoring presence inside and out. He made two 3s and four dunks, two on assists from Barnes and one after taking a backdoor pass from Gilling.

Barnes’ second 3, with 6:38 remaining, gave ASU a lead for good, 54-51 lead. After Gilling made 3, Barnes sank two more around two free throws from Eric Jacobsen, giving ASU 14 points in five possessions. Colorado had never possession when it was closer than three points thereafter.

"By and large, I haven’t been displeased by our shot selection," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "Today, the ball was going in the basket for us. Sometimes maybe that is contagious too."

Jacobsen and point guard Tra Holder had 10 points and off guard Gerry Blakes had 12, four in the final seconds when he continued his season-long mastery at the free throw line. He has made 36 of 41 this season, 87.8 percent.

Gilling added six points, making two 3-pointers, and was part of the mostly veteran group that was on the floor when ASU made its decisive second-half push. Barnes, McKissic, Gilling, Jacobsen and Holder played almost all of the final 11:10.

"We’ve played together for one year, some of us two. We just know where we are going and what each bother is thinking," Gilling said. "And Tra did a good job."

Holder had season highs with six assists and six rebounds while committing three turnovers in 31 minutes.

The difference in the second half?

"Energy," McKissic said. "I was there with a few of my road dogs from last year. We kind of made a decision in the huddles. This one, we are not going to lose. We have a great opportunity, and we’re not going to lose one at home.

"If we bring that type of energy to be there in the last four minutes of every game, anything can happen. Of course we have to get better offensively and defensively as well, as far as knowing assignments. Before the game, we came to grips with ourselves. We’re going to shoot any shot that we feel is open. We passed up a few last game. You know, just relax."

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