(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Following two demolishing defeats to Arizona and Utah, Arizona State will try to build momentum going into their last home series of the season as they travel to Boulder for their first and only matchup with Colorado.
The first half of the Rocky Mountains road trip came with the Sun Devils taking on Utah, a place where they have found it difficult to win at in recent years. Last season, ASU trailed at halftime to Utah 41-9, and this season was no different with the intermission score being 44-10. They ended up losing 81-46, and facing Colorado will present a similar challenge.
Utah got off to such a huge lead in the beginning was with their three-point shooting, making five threes in a row to start the game. The Utes finished with 16 threes made on 40 attempts, and almost all of them were good looks due to the zone ASU was playing that gave so much attention to sophomore center Jakob Poeltl.
Similarly, Colorado has a dominant center of their own in senior Josh Scott. Scott averages 16.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest, and is the focal point of the Colorado attack. If ASU takes a similar approach to Scott as they did with Poeltl, they could be in for another three-point barrage.
Colorado’s starting lineup without Scott shoots 41.9 percent from three, including sophomore guard George King, a top-20 scorer in the conference who shoots 45.5 percent from three. As a team, Colorado is the best in the conference at shooting the three at 39.2 percent, and the worse news is Utah is sixth in the Pac-12.
In other words, ASU might not be able to focus so much on Scott that the wings are deserted much like the Utah perimeter players, because they were able to take complete advantage of the open opportunities.
Unlike ASU, the Buffaloes are riding a lot of momentum coming off of a huge home win against No. 9 Arizona on Wednesday. With their late-season surge coming at the perfect time and the Sun Devils’ collapse paralleling it, ASU will likely need to have a near-perfect performance in order to add to their win total.
Keys to the Game
If this game turns into a shootout, Colorado won’t be presented with too much of a challenge. When holding opponents to under 75 points this season, ASU is 11-2. Five of those wins came when ASU also scored less than 75, including ASU’s only two ranked wins of the season.
Colorado on the other hand has scored at least 75 points 17 times, including six games with at least 90 points, being 15-2 overall in those games.
Not only that, but ASU’s lack of depth will play a huge role in defending Colorado, who plays nine guys on a consistent basis. ASU is stuck with eight scholarship players, and only seven of them played major minutes against Utah.
Crash the boards
The Sun Devils are 10-4 in games where they grab at least ten offensive rebounds, and a group effort is going to be much needed in this game.
Against Utah ASU did a good job at keeping tabs on Poeltl for the most part, but where they got beat was not putting bodies on the other four guys when shots went up. With junior forwards Obinna Oleka and Savon Goodman rebounding as well as they have been, trusting them with the responsibility of keeping Scott off the glass is something worth giving a try considering the fact that senior guard Gerry Blakes is one of the best rebounding guards in the Pac-12 with 5.5 per game.
Where a lot of this comes into play is how often they settle for three-pointers. While a missed three can give you more of a chance at a long offensive rebound, a lot of the time when a shot is missed inside there is nobody around to even have a shot at an offensive board because everybody is outside the three-point line. If they can find the balance between five-out isolation and a scheme where everybody crashes the boards, boards will come easier with less transition giveaways.