Takeaways: ASU falters down the stretch, suffers road loss at Colorado
Despite shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc and 42 percent from the field, Arizona State fell on the road to Colorado Wednesday night, 77-73, in Boulder. With the loss, the Sun Devils fell to 16-8 overall and 7-5 in Pac-12 play.
Here are the key takeaways from ASU’s mid-week loss to the Buffaloes.
1. ON THE GLASS: A common strength of the Sun Devils this season, Wednesday night’s rebounding stats were not in favor of ASU. The Sun Devils got outrebounded 20-15 in the first half and gave up eight offensive boards, which translated to eight (25 percent) of Colorado’s 32 first-half points. By the final buzzer, the Buffaloes still held a 39-33 advantage on the glass. In particular, Tyler Bey was a nuisance on the glass; he finished the first half with nine points and eight rebounds and went on to snatch 15 boards while putting up 19 points by the end of the night. No ASU player — not even Zylan Cheatham — entered the break with more than three rebounds.
2. IN THE PAINT: A major part of what allowed ASU to open up an 18-point halftime advantage and win by 22 the last time the Sun Devils played Colorado (Jan. 5) was inside scoring. The Sun Devils shot just 7-of-21 from long-range in that game but put up a third of their points in the paint. Similarly, rebounding was also a major strength for ASU that night; the Sun Devils outrebounded the Buffaloes 42-28 in the first meeting. Both stats — the latter having been mentioned above — evened out in Wednesday’s rematch. Colorado outscored ASU 22-12 in the paint in the first half and 38-26 on the game, as bulky 6-foot-8 big man Evan Battey chipped in eight points before exiting at halftime with a back injury, and star guard McKinley Wright IV was incredibly effective getting to the basket. Interestingly enough, Colorado — against an ASU team that notable gives up the three-ball moreso than the inside bucket — shot a dismal 5-of-18 clip from distance, after going just 1-of-9 in the first frame. On the flip side, Romello White was nowhere near as efficient down low (5-of-10) as he was against Washington (8-of-9).
4. GRADUAL TAKEOVER: The crazy thing about this game was there was no real point in the second half where Colorado took over the game. There wasn’t some 10-0 run that cost the Sun Devils the game. Over time, down the stretch, though, ASU saw its lead — which was, at one point, 42-37 early in the second half — slowly trickle away, until a D’Shwan Schwartz free throw with 10:31 put Colorado up for good. The Buffaloes’ lead remained at five points or less for the next eight minutes until a clutch McKinley Wright triple pushed the advantage to 66-58. That said, the Sun Devils didn’t have the clutch shots left in the take to close the gap.
5. TWO-MAN RACE: At the end of the day, ASU was largely beaten by two Buffaloes playing very well on the offensive end. Everyone in the Colorado rotation got involved, sure, but when push came to shove, nearly 60 percent of the Buffs’ scoring came from Tyler Bey and McKinley Wright IV. The two — an athletic, long wing, and a quick, shifty guard — fit the prototype for what has often beaten ASU in the past. They did so with incredible efficiency, combining to shoot 18-of-25 from the field on the night, while Bey added 17 rebounds and Wright added eight assists and six boards.
6. IT’S NOT THAT BAD… YET: It really isn’t. Colorado sure isn’t great, but a road loss to a Top 100 team is never a terrible thing to take. The Buffaloes qualify as a Quadrant 2 loss, which won’t hurt ASU’s résumé very substantially. As was mentioned in a previous breakdown of ASU’s tournament outlook, there’s a scenario in which the Sun Devils split their two remaining road trips and still seize an automatic bid. That said, a consecutive loss to Utah would be drawing close to panic mode.
Arizona State will be back in action Saturday at 8 p.m. in Salt Lake City, when it looks to avenge a Jan. 3 home loss to the Utes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.