TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Tra Holder is on a scoring tear, and Arizona State is winless in the Pac-12 no more.
Holder had scored 21 or more points in the four Sun Devils games before Thursday night, but only the first one was a win.
The sophomore guard scored 20 again and coach Bobby Hurley finally got his first conference victory with an 84-73 win over Washington State.
“I was just trying to let the game come to me,” Holder said. “I found my open spots and fortunately I was able to knock it down. Coaches and my players give me confidence and I feel comfortable shooting.”
Kodi Justice scored 11 of 16 of his points in the second half for ASU (11-6, 1-3 Pac-12) and Willie Atwood added 15.
Ike Iroegbu led the Cougars (9-7, 1-3) with 18 points and Josh Hawkinson, the Pac-12’s leading rebounder, added 15 points and 12 rebounds after being saddled with three fouls in the first half. WSU has lost 5 of its last 7 games.
Arizona State took advantage of a Washington State scoring drought that lasted more than eight minutes of the first half. The Cougars went from a 13-10 lead at the 13:52 mark to a 27-13 deficit after a pair of free throws from Holder with 5:43 to go until halftime.
Holder also hit a pair of 3s during that stretch. He became the first ASU player since James Harden in 2007-2008 to score 20 points in five straight games.
“Our defense wasn’t helping us the way it needed to in those first three games in the league,” Hurley said. “It was nice to see us get off to a good start in the game and build the lead in the first half and have them chase us most of the game.”
The Sun Devils led by as many as 17 points in the first half, taking advantage of 15 fouls in the opening 20 minutes by the Cougars. ASU made 14 of 18 free throws.
The Cougars, down 40-25 at halftime, scored the first 10 points of the second half after season lows for first-half points, field goals made (9) and made 3s (0 for 3).
They made their first two 3s of the second half, one from Iroegbu to cut ASU’s lead to 40-35. But the Sun Devils responded with an 8-0 run to take control again. Savon Goodman tipped in a miss after Justice hit a 3, and Arizona State was able to stay in command the rest of the way.
“We had the ability to take control of the game when we cut (the lead) to five, but for whatever reason our air went away from us,” Cougars coach Ernie Kent said. “The experience, through the loss, it got us better. We didn’t play the way we were capable of.”
Atwood threw down a dunk with 8:05 left after Justice stole the ball and passed behind his back to Atwood for a 63-52 lead, bringing the crowd to its feet.
“You’ve got to reward the big for running,” Justice said. “It was a big play for us, got us going.”
Atwood drilled a baseline 3 for a 73-56 lead with just over five minutes left.
Washington State: Senior F Brett Boese made his first start of the season and second of his college career. . Iroegbu has scored in double figures in 13 of the Cougars’ 16 games. . WSU had only one offensive rebound at halftime.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils improved to 40-36 all-time against the Cougars. ASU has won six straight at home, 4 of the past 5 meetings and 8 of the past 11 overall. . Obinna Oleka made his third start of the season and surpassed his per-game scoring and rebounding averages, 7.8 and 4.5, before halftime. He finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Baltimore Ravens star Terrell Suggs, who played college football at Arizona State, sat courtside to watch his cousin, Cougars guard Renard Suggs. The elder Suggs posed for photos with the Sun Devils student section.
The ASU student section, known for its infamous “Curtain of Distraction” when opposing teams shoot free throws, added a twist to its antics. Students wore masks of the Minions, the famous animated film characters.
Washington State at No. 18 Arizona on Saturday.
Arizona State hosts Washington on Saturday.
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