In their first leg of their tour of the Grand Canyon State, Arizona exploded out of the gates and put away the Buffs 69-57 with Johnson putting up 21 points to lead the team in the loss.
You try not to a call a conference game in mid-January a must-win game but beating Utah exorcised a lot of potential demons when the Devils snuck past the Utes, 79-75, on Thursday night. After going a combined 11-36 from the field over two consecutive losses, Jahii Carson was happy to play on Ned Wulk Court again by getting back to his old ways with 22 dazzling points and a surprising eight rebounds from the 5'10" point guard.
Eric Jacobsen made the start in place of Jon Gilling and the lineup change paid dividends as both players elevated their games while the Bo Barnes Experience is getting serious airtime these days as the junior sharpshooter has played 45 minutes in his last two games after getting 33 minutes total in the first 17 games combined! Barnes has 22 points over the last two contests and will likely get more run against CU.
ASU is standing at 3-3 after one-third of the Pac-12 schedule and that keeps them afloat but this next third will allow them to make a statement with five consecutive games against beatable opponents who are all lumped together in the standings but it all starts with a chance to beat Colorado and start a little winning streak. It has happened before.
Tad Boyle: 3rd season at CU – 84-42; 139-108 career
Herb Sendek: 8th season at ASU – 133-113; 387-291 career
G – Askia Booker (13.4 PPG, 2.4 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (18.4 PPG, 4.6 APG)
F – Xavier Johnson (10.3 PPG, 37% 3PT) vs. Shaq McKissic (8.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG)
F – Wesley Gordon (6.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG) vs. Eric Jacobsen (2.2 PPG, 1.7 RPG)
C – Josh Scott (14.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (12.1 PPG, 4.5 BPG)
Why Colorado Can Win:
Just because Dinwiddie is out the lineup that does not mean Colorado is a dark abyss. While they lost their star player and leading scorer, they still have a lot of experience, athleticism and physicality. Josh Scott is a guy that will challenge Jordan Bachynski and force the Sun Devils frontcourt to be much more physical than they usually are. Askia Booker is a heady player who can cause headaches for opponents so it will be interesting to see if Jahii can stay hot and diminish Booker's impact. If CU gets ASU into early foul trouble, they will have a great chance to steal a win on the road.
Why ASU Can Win:
For the first time all season, the ASU bench is being looked at as a possible source of strength. With Jacobsen's confidence building and Gilling's confidence being restored, the lineup change may be permanent or may just be temporary but the Devils will have more ammunition at their disposal when they need to rest the starters. As for the regulars, ASU was able to beat Utah with minimal contributions from Jermaine Marshall and while the reserves were able to handle the extra workload, Marshall is a huge source of offense for ASU and he'll need to get back on the scoring train against CU. For ASU to come away with the W, Jahii and Bachynski need to stay out of foul trouble and hit 50% of their shots from the field at least.
Key Stat: When he scores his third point of the game, Jahii Carson will be the third-fastest Sun Devil to score 1,000 points behind Ike Diogu and James Harden. With 819 career points, Jordan Bachynski would need to average about 13 points a game for the remainder of the season to join Carson in the 1,000 Club. Jermaine Marshall gets partial credit for joining the club with ASU despite the lion's share of that work being done in State College. In case you're wondering, Bo Barnes stands at 245 career points.
X-Factor: Rebounding ; the Sun Devils are 9-1 this season when they don't lose the rebounding battle against just 5-4 when they are beaten on the glass. While Eric Jacobsen only had one rebound in his start and ultimately played 16 minutes, the move sent a message for ASU to play more physical basketball in the interior and the Devils will have their hands full on the boards against a strong Colorado squad.
Final Score: ASU 67 Colorado 63