Colorado beats Arizona State 87-81 behind Booker's 29 points

BOULDER, Colo. -- Was Askia Booker ever hot -- both under the collar and on the court.

The senior shooting guard drew an early technical for trash-talking, then let his play do the rest in Colorado's 87-81 win Sunday night over Arizona State.

Booker's 29 points was his most ever at the Coors Events Center, and it came after Colorado coach Tad Boyle briefly benched him following his ever-so-rare technical.

"You can thank Gerry Blakes for that one," Booker said of the Sun Devils' junior guard. "He started off about an hour before the game. He was talking mess. It's a good friend of mine back home, played with him since I was 10 years old. So, when he started running his mouth, I took it very personal.

"And that's why I got that technical. I told him his butt was mine, but I used some other words. I just wanted to get my team fired up, man. I felt great tonight," Booker added. "I think they fed off my energy and they kept it for 40 minutes."

Booker said Arizona State's Bo Barnes and Jonathan Gilling and even Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek fired him up.

"Those four guys pretty much started it," Booker said. "When people talk mess and say I'm not (that) good, I take it personal. So, it's a credit to those guys to get me fired up and for me to get the ball in the basket."

Sendek had nothing but praise for Booker afterward, saying, "He's a special player, he makes buckets and he makes free throws and he got 29 points. He was the only player on either team that was at that next level. He significantly helped tip it Colorado's way. I think Booker was the X-factor."

Booker, who admitted "there was no controlling my emotions," called his night reminiscent of growing up on the hardwood in Los Angeles where trash talking is as much a part of hoops as the high-tops.

He shot 9 of 16 from the floor and 10 of 11 from the stripe in 29 minutes.

"I'm really happy for `Ski. He works really hard and he deserved this win," said Buffs center Josh Scott. "As teammates we didn't give him the season that he deserved as a senior."

Scott added 14 points, including a crucial putback in the final seconds as the Buffaloes (13-15, 6-10 Pac-12) snapped a three-game skid.

The Buffs had their second-best shooting percentage -- 59.2 -- since joining the conference four years ago. And this came on the heels of a seven-game stretch in which they had shot below 40 percent from the floor -- their worst such skid since 1957-58.

The Sun Devils (15-14, 7-9) fell behind by nine points three times but battled back every time and took a 74-73 lead on Eric Jacobsen's putback with 3:20 remaining.

The Buffaloes regained the lead at 77-76 on a nifty basket by Dustin Thomas (12 points) off the inbounds pass. Scott blocked Savon Goodman's shot in the final minute and Tre'Shaun Fletcher got the ball and was fouled. He sank both free throws to make it 79-76.

Booker swished two free throws with 36 seconds left to make it a five-point game. But the Sun Devils hit three from the stripe in the next 11 seconds to pull to 81-79.

Fletcher was fouled and sank the first free throw. When he missed the second, Scott swooped in for the putback that put the Buffs up 84-79.

"This is all about trust and we weren't trusting each other enough," Barnes said.

Booker's previous home high was 27 points. He pushed past that with a pair of free throws with 6.4 seconds left to cap the scoring.

Shaquielle McKissic led the Sun Devils with 18 points and Tra Holder added 14, but it was the Devils' defense that did them in at the end.

"We let the lowest percentage team in the Pac-12 shoot 68 percent in the second half," Holder lamented.



Arizona State: All of Eric Jacobsen's 12 points came in the second half. ... The Sun Devils erased one of their nine-point deficits by sinking a trio of 3-pointers in a 1-minute span.

Colorado: Coach Tad Boyle pulled Askia Booker with less than a second remaining, not only to get him a standing ovation but also to get one for his replacement, senior Goeff Bates, a walk-on who usually toils in practice and gets precious few game minutes. Booker said Bates is the guy nobody wants to go up against in practice because of his tenacity. ... Boyle said his philosophy is to pull any player who draws a technical for trash talk: "I thought `Ski was almost too hyped," he said.


Arizona State hosts Stanford on Thursday night.

Colorado visits Washington Thursday night.