The first half was one of the strangest in memory, which is saying a lot for a CU team that is always subject to bizarre play on the road. The Buffs immediately dug themselves a whole by committing a whopping amount of turnovers — they had 5 in the first four minutes and 12 in the half — that led to a ton of fast break points for ASU. The Buffs held them close, though, mostly because when they had a chance to set up their defense, they held down a prolific offense to 34% shooting. It also helped that ASU shot 0-10 from three and committed their fair share of head-scratching turnovers. (My favorite stat from the half is that there were 10 blocked shots and only 2 made three-pointers. That’s wild.)
Because of their nonstop mistakes, it seemed like Colorado had absolutely no business going into halftime tied at 32-32, but they should get some credit for playing tough and forcing those mistakes. McKinley Wright and Dallas Walton had some fantastic two-man play and they were supported by Namon Wright’s excellent half. When they weren’t losing the ball, the Buffs looked at least capable on offense, especially when you consider George King only played 6 minutes due to foul trouble. Also of note, McKinley and D’Shawn Schwartz both made plays that ESPNU had to blur out because they were sexually explicit.
After halftime, the game normalized into actual basketball. Arizona State predictably heated up, but so too did Colorado. The two teams were neck-and-neck for much of the second half as the two battled for control of the game. Colorado was led offensively by King alongside surprising performances from Lucas Siewert and D’Shawn Schwartz. It didn’t matter at the end, but it was encouraging that Colorado was relying on supporting players and still competing on the road against a Top 25 opponent.
Unfortunately, the game was only neck-and-neck until the Sun Devils started shooting flames. After making just 3-16 from deep, ASU proceeded to hit 5 in a row and 5-11 after that. Those threes, all varying in difficulty and confidence, were death for CU. The Buffs were unable to keep up because there’s not much you can do if the opposition is making it rain; the only thing they could have done is build a bigger lead earlier and hope it would be enough to withstand the inevitable ASU run. After the Sun Devils took control, they kept their foot on the pedal and Colorado could do nothing.
Colorado played extremely well on the toughest road trip of the season, but it’s tough luck that they came away empty handed. Perhaps the Buffs only need more experience before they can regularly pull off these road upsets. Focusing still on this season, the Buffs are now 12-10 on the season and 4-6 in Pac-12 play, but that’s still solid considering the rest of their schedule is relatively easy.
Next up for the Buffs is a home game against Utah on Friday, February 2nd (7:00 p.m., FS1). Utah is always tough and they have a history of playing well in Boulder, so the Buffs will have to keep up the good work to take care of business at home.