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January 25, 2014

Sun Devils blow out Buffaloes to earn home sweep

There's no place like home.

After going on a two-game skid on the road, Arizona State came back to Wells Fargo Arena and pulled out two huge Pac-12 conference wins against Utah and Colorado.

With a 72-51 win on Saturday night against an out of sync Colorado team playing without it star Spencer Dinwiddie, ASU improved to 15-5 overall, 4-3 in the Pac-12 as the Buffaloes dropped to 15-6 overall, 4-4 in the Pac-12.

"We definitely knew it was a must-win series for us," said ASU point guard Jahii Carson, who finished 5 of 12 from the field for a team-best 18 points. "We needed to come and get two wins…this is great momentum for us coming off these two wins. Hopefully we can carry our momentum up and keep our good energy next week during practice."

While ASU improved to 11-1 at home on the year, the Sun Devils look to continue their two-game win streak next week on the road against California and Stanford.

With Cal and Stanford being another couple of tough teams in the Pac-12 -- especially Cal, which is 10-0 at home and 5-1 in the Pac-12 -- ASU has another difficult week ahead of itself.

Perhaps more than any game this season, the Sun Devils had a balanced scoring attack Saturday. ASU's five starters combined for 48 points while its bench outscored Colorado's bench 24-7.

"I think we're all together in a better flow," Carson said. "Everybody's in a good flow with each other and everybody's trying to get the win and everybody wants to feel the wealth and I think we're doing a good job of hitting the open man and not being selfish."

Carson eclipsed 1,000 points in his 55th career game and bounced back from his 3 of 8 free throw shooting game against Utah, going 7 of 10 from the line on the night.

Carson's four offensive rebounds led the team, despite being the smallest on the court. After the game, Carson said he's been trying to push his rebounding stat up as of late and wants to continue that trend in the next couple games.

Coming off the bench for the second consecutive game, junior forward Jonathan Gilling finished with 12 points on 4 of 5 shooting from the field. He was perfect from behind the arc with four three-pointers, improving his stat line to 7 of 7 from three-point range over the last two games.

Senior transfer Shaquielle McKissic impacted the game significantly despite scoring just seven points. He had a number of impressive defensive plays and dished out five assists without turning the ball over, increasing his season totals to a remarkable 42 assists with just eight turnovers.

Free throws were a big issue for Colorado throughout the game. In the first half, it was 6 of 12 from the free throw line and by the end of the game, it was 9 of 24 from the line, including a number of missed front-end one and ones.

ASU dominated the paint early with junior post Eric Jacobsen grabbing six rebounds in the first half alone -- twice what any ASU player had in the first half. Jacobsen was active early, moving his feet and making some crucial defensive stops to give ASU a chance on the other side of the floor.

"I was really pleased with our team's defensive effort this afternoon," head coach Herb Sendek said. "I thought out guys played with good effort, good concentration and really helped each other on that end of the floor."

Turnovers were a big story line in the first half for both teams. Combined, ASU and Colorado had 23 turnovers before halftime, compared to the game on Thursday against Utah where the teams combined for 23 turnovers in the entire game.

While ASU had 16 turnovers itself by the end of the game, it had 28 points off of 19 Colorado turnovers. The Buffaloes clearly miss their leading scorer Dinwiddie, who is out for the season with a recently suffered torn ACL.

By halftime, ASU was up 34-23, lead by a balanced scoring attack from the Sun Devils. Carson and McKissic had seven points apiece, closely followed by Gilling and Jacobsen who scored six points a piece.

Gilling's six points came from two three-pointers in a four minute span and a 11-6 ASU run that put the Sun Devils ahead by double-digits for the first time in the game.

Colorado was 8 of 19 from the field, lead by sophomore forward Xavier Johnson who had nine points on 3 of 4 shooting from the field. ASU did a decent job of containing sophomore forward Josh Scott who had five points in the first half, only 2 of 5 from the field.

Johnson ended the game with only 12 points on 4 of 9 shooting from the field and five turnovers.

After struggling against Utah coming off a missed game against Arizona due to a groin strain, senior guard Jermaine Marshall bounced back and scored his first points of the night off of two huge three-pointers in a 12-6 run by ASU to start the second half.

In that stretch, Colorado went 3 of 11 from the field, 0 of 3 from three-point range. ASU was 4 of 7 from the field, 2 of 3 from behind the arc and put the game out of reach relatively early in the period.

Colorado went 2 of 11 from three-point range despite averaging 5.4 per game so far this season while the Sun Devils went 9 of 19 from behind the three-point arc.

"We know they really only had one threat really that was a 3-point shooter and that's (junior guard Askia) Booker," Carson said. "We tried to just play with great intensity on the defensive end and not let them get any threes off."

ASU continued to build its lead throughout the second half, going up on Colorado by as much as 23 points before ending the game with a 21-point difference.

"I think everybody has a good spirit, especially with these two wins," Carson said. "I think everyone's confidence is pretty high. I know that the practices that we had this past week were good and I think that we're all on the same page in keeping them, sustaining them, and having good energy in practice. The energy you have in practice is going to carry over to the game."


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