GAME NOTES: In their first game since toppling then second-ranked Arizona, the Arizona State Sun Devils take aim at the Colorado Buffaloes in a Pac-12 Conference clash at Coors Events Center.
Jermaine Marshall hit a difficult layup and Jordan Bachynski rejected a layup attempt from T. J McDonnell in the final seconds of double-overtime to lift Arizona State to a stunning, 69-66, victory over the Wildcats. The Sun Devils have won three straight and six of their last seven games, improving to 19-6 overall and 8-4 in conference. They will visit Utah next.
Colorado has earned victories in four of its last five games, and is sitting a win away from 20 for the season (19-7). The Buffaloes are also a half-game back of Arizona State, which is tied for third place in the league standings (8-5). They will get a shot at Arizona at home this Saturday.
When these teams met in Tempe on Jan. 25, the Sun Devils rolled to a 72-51 victory. It was the fourth setback in five games for Colorado at the time and pushed ASU forward in the all-time series (5-4).
Marshall made a number of big plays in the second overtime to keep Arizona State in contention last Friday. He nailed a 3-pointer with 58 seconds to play to tie the game at 65-65. Then, less than a minute later, he forced his way into the paint and sank a layup in front of a pair of Arizona defenders. The Wildcats had a chance to respond, but Bachynski rose up and swatted McConnell's shot, after which Jahii Carson picked up the ball and went the length of the court to put an exclamation point on the victory with a dunk.
Carson, Bachynski and Marshall have been an impressive trio and the driving force behind Arizona State's success. Carson (18.9 ppg, 4.8 apg) is the club's primary scorer and ball-handler, with the offense running through his efforts. Marshall (16.2 ppg) is more of a pure scorer, who can knock down shots from the outside as well as put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. He proved that and then some against Arizona, finishing with a game-high 29 points. Bachynski (12.2 ppg, 9 rpg, 4.6 bpg) is a decent finisher in the paint, but his ability to protect the rim is his greatest strength, as he leads the nation in blocks.
Xavier Johnson scored 20 points before fouling out to lead five players in double figures during Colorado's 83-74 victory over USC on Sunday. The Buffs shot an even 50 percent from the floor in the contest, including an 8-of-17 showing from 3-point range.
Colorado is still clearly trying to find its rhythm since losing leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie to a season-ending injury in mid-January. The Buffaloes are 5-4 since his departure, but they have seemingly found their way on offense of late. Askia Booker (14.4 ppg) and Josh Scott (14.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg) have been thrust into larger scoring roles, with Booker also picking up his play as a facilitator. However, Johnson (12 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and others on the roster have shown some flashes of brilliance recently to help the cause. Still, the Buffs rank eighth in the conference in scoring (74.5 ppg) and ninth in field goal percentage (.452).
Tad Boyle has really created a strong program in Boulder, as the Buffaloes have been able to remain competitive even after losing their best player. Arizona State is a strong squad that will test Colorado, but the homecourt advantage should win out for the Buffaloes, who are 15-1 at home this season.
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