TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Practice made perfect for Tra Holder.
The Arizona State point guard spent some extra time at the free-throw line after practice on Wednesday, saying he made 48 of 50 in one stretch.
The preparation paid off Thursday night when Holder sank two free throws with 1.6 seconds to play to give the Sun Devils a 78-77 victory over Colorado.
Holder grabbed the rebound of teammate Torian Graham’s missed 3-pointer and was fouled by Derrick White as he threw up a shot.
“He made a winning play,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “He’s a winner.”
Holder said he always tries to crash the boards at the end of games.
“It just popped in my hands and I tried to throw it up,” he said.
Graham and Shannon Evans II scored 18 apiece for the Sun Devils (9-7, 2-1 Pac-12). Obinna Oleka added 15 points and 10 rebounds.
White scored 35 points, including a layup that put Colorado (10-5, 0-2) up 77-76 with 25 seconds to play.
Xavier Johnson scored 13 on 6-of-7 shooting for the Buffaloes but was ejected along with Arizona State’s Jethro Tshisumpa after an altercation with 1:27 left in the first half.
There were 14 lead changes in the final 10:47.
“It’s fun to be in those competitive games and to just feel like you’re giving your best shot,” Hurley said. “… I think we have enough offense and playmakers that if we put ourselves in close games there’s enough guys that can make plays and put us over the top.”
White’s total was his highest in this, his first season with Colorado. The transfer once scored 50 for Division II UC-Colorado Springs.
“Derrick White was unbelievable offensively,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “He just made every play. We need to get him some help there is no doubt about that. He was terrific tonight, but they made one more play than we did.”
Evans’ driving layup put Arizona State up 76-75 with 1:55 to play but Oleka missed the first of a one-and-one opportunity with 1:10 left.
After an exchange of misses White broke free inside for the easy basket that put the Buffaloes ahead.
“There is no doubt our guys battled,” Boyle said. “I have a total different feeling in my heart, in my gut than I did after the Utah game (a 76-60 loss) because I thought our guys battled and fought.”
The Sun Devils led 41-36 at the break and stretched the lead to nine three times early in the second half, the last at 55-46 on Evans’ 3-pointer with 14:04 to play. But the Buffaloes responded with a 10-0 run, capped by White’s 3-pointer that put Colorado up 56-55 with 10:47 to go.
Neither team led by more than four points after that.
Johnson was going strong when he got into it with Tshisumpa near the Colorado baseline.
Referees cleared the floor and spent several minutes reviewing video of the incident and conferring at length.
The decision was a technical foul on each player and flagrant two foul on both of them, sending both to the locker room.
Johnson averages 14 points per game, Tshisumpa one point per game.
“I think our player was a little more important to us than theirs was to them,” Boyle said.
Hurley said players get tangled up in a rough play and sometimes a confrontation ensues.
“It’s a learning experience for Jethro,” he said, “and I’m sure for their player as well.”
Colorado: The Buffaloes wasted a brilliant night by White, whose scoring was sorely needed after Johnson was ejected. The Buffaloes are still looking for their first conference win and now face a tough trip to Tucson.
Arizona State: Hurley’s Sun Devils were shorthanded after Ramon Vila fouled out with 5:37 left but got some big plays from several players to beat Colorado for the fourth straight time in Tempe.
Colorado: The Buffaloes head to Tucson to face the No. 17 Wildcats on Saturday night.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils are home Saturday afternoon against Utah.
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