Sun Devils again storm court on ranked Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. — Tra Holder did some YouTube homework to prepare for Arizona's aggressive defense. For about 10 minutes Friday night and again Saturday morning, Holder typed in "Chris Paul pick-and-roll" to see how Paul handled the type of hard hedges the Wildcats figured to show.
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"He kept his dribble," Holder said.
So did Holder, one of Arizona State's expansive cast of big playmakers Saturday as the Sun Devils posted their second consecutive storm-the-court victory over a top-10 Arizona club at Wells Fargo Arena, this time 81-78 over the No. 6 Wildcats.
Holder had 15 points, a season-high eight assists and two turnovers in 36 minutes. He consistently kept ASU (12-11, 4-6 Pac-12) in sync offensively against an Arizona team that prides itself on defense.
"I just saw what the defense was giving me and tried to take advantage of it," said Holder, who regularly drove to the hoop to score or find others for open looks. "This game was all about buying in and shrinking the floor, because they only averaged four 3's a game. If we stopped their penetration and make them shoot jump shots, it would be hard for them."
Holder had his hands full on defense as well, as Arizona guard T.J. McConnell posted a career-high 25 points. But the rest of the Wildcats did little damage as Arizona (20-3, 8-2) shot 45.1 percent and went just 6-for-16 behind the arc.
Holder was hardly alone. ASU senior Bo Barnes, in his last rivalry game, scored 11 of his 18 points in the final five minutes, Savon Goodman had 15 points and was one rebound shy of a double-double, and deceptive left-hander Gerry Blakes added 14 points.
"I think this win definitely validates our season," Goodman said.
Holder's biggest assist and Barnes' biggest basket came on the most important bucket of the game. With less than a minute to go and the shot clock running down, Holder drove from the top of key and passed back out to Barnes, whose 25-footer with 52 seconds left put ASU up 75-68. Arizona never had the ball with a chance to tie the rest of the way.
To hear the Sun Devils, it was not unexpected.
Holder: "Bo does a great job of filling behind me when I penetrate. He called my name and I heard him. I've seen him do that all the time."
Goodman: "In practice he (Barnes) hits that shot. All summer in open gym he hit that shot. It's a shot our team is confident Bo can hit. I give him credit; he took it with confidence and knocked it down."
There was not much else to do.
"I saw the shot clock running down, so I just tried to get it up there," Barnes said. "It felt pretty good. The coaches always say to keep confident in yourself. Tra did a great job of driving and collapsing my guy."
Barnes, who made eight free throws in the final 4:51, hit all four of his attempts in the final 19 seconds. Then he was mobbed again, as some of the crowd of 10,876 ran onto the floor ... just as they did after ASU's 69-66 double-overtime victory here not quite a year ago, on Feb. 14.
"Hopefully it starts something and we can finish the Pac-12 on a high note," Barnes said. "It shows we are good enough to play against anybody in the Pac-12 when we don't hurt ourselves."
While the result could be considered an upset, ASU is not that far from another half-dozen victories. Its nonconference losses were by five, five, one, seven and three points, the last in triple overtime to Lehigh. It has Pac-12 losses to Oregon by three and one point, the last one in overtime last Friday.
Now they are on a roll. The Sun Devils have won four of their last six, all after Holder returned to the starting lineup. He played only 12 minutes and scored two points, on free throws, in Arizona's 73-49 victory in Tucson on Jan. 4, when the Sun Devils were still tinkering at point guard. He has averaged 10.7 points and 4.8 assists in his last six games.
"He's come a long way," Goodman said. "It hasn't been easy on him all season. He had to do a lot of learning quick. I give him credit for going out there and controlling the game as a freshman. He's a pass-first point guard. He plays with heart. We know when he gets into those seams, we just have to close out our man and look for the ball. You know the pass is going to come some time."
Goodman, too, stepped up after limited contributions in Tucson, when he played just 19 minutes because of foul trouble and had only two points. Starting for the second time in four games to give ASU a more physical frontcourt, he helped the Sun Devils to near-even work on the boards. Arizona had 37 rebounds, ASU had 34.
"All season, we've been fighting through adversity," Goodman said. "I think this game solidifies where we are. We're always going to fight to the end."