TEMPE, Ariz. – In DePaul, Arizona State met the most athletic team it has played this season, and it did not go well.
DePaul used its quickness to disrupt the Sun Devils’ timing on offense and used its springs to dominate the boards while dealing Arizona State its worst loss and first home loss of the season, 78-61, at Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday.
It did not start that way. Quite the opposite. ASU scored the first seven points when freshman Jahii Carson got to the basket at will from the top of the key, beating his man the hoop on four of the first five possessions to score four points and assist on another basket.
It looked like another in the series of beat-downs ASU has put on opponents this season, although few opponents have had the talent level that DePaul brought.
But the game turned when Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell inserted 5-foot-11 senior guard Worrel Clahar and instructed his defense to collapse on Carson, with a bigger man as a second defender. DePaul went to a full-court press, and while the Sun Devils did not commit a lot of turnovers against the harassment, they were unable to find a consistent rhythm.
DePaul (7-3) went on 17-6 and 15-5 runs later in the first half to take control and win its fifth straight game. The Blue Demons led by 14 in the first half and as many as 22 in the second.
“At the end of the press, I don’t know that we attacked when we could have. Then we got caught in no man’s land and settled,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said.
Clahar and springy 6-4 Brandon Young led the way. Clahar, a 5-foot-11 senior, had a season-high 14 points. Young led DePaul with 18 points and became the 11th player in school history with 1,000 points and 300 assists while scoring in double figures for the 14th consecutive game. He also had nine assists.
“We thought it was a statement game for us to come out on the West Coast, on the road and beat a good team,” Purnell said.
The Blue Demons shot 50 percent from the field and had 44-34 rebounding edge. Their 34 field goals were the most against a Sendek-coached team in his six-plus seasons at Arizona State. The Sun Devils shot 43.1 percent and made 3-of-15 3-point attempts and 8 of 19 free throws.
“They’re a more athletic team, make no doubt about it,” Sendek said.
“They got into the paint at will,” added Sendek, who called his defense “poor.”
Most disappointing to the players was their effort level. DePaul had 12 offensive rebounds and consistently beat the Sun Devils to loose balls.
“They brought the energy. They brought the intensity. That’s something we didn’t bring today,” Arizona State forward Carrick Felix said. “We waited too long to get going, which is something you can’t do when you play an athletic team like that. Obviously they were the better team tonight.”
Arizona State (8-2) had its four-game winning streak stopped while losing to an unranked team for the first time this season. The Sun Devils’ only other loss was to then-No. 14 Creighton, 87-73, in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational on Nov. 24.
Felix, Evan Gordon and Carson and had 12 points apiece to lead Arizona State, and 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachynski had 10. Bachynski was coming off the first triple-double in Arizona State history, when he had 13 points, 12 rebounds and a school-record 12 blocked shots in an 87-76 victory over Cal State Northridge on Saturday. He was the fourth player in Pac-12 history to get his triple-double in those categories.
Carson, feeling the brunt of the DePaul defense, made 5 for 16 field goal attempts and had six turnovers to go with four assists, although some of those turnovers came on the receiving end of his passes.
“They were feeling tonight, and we definitely weren’t on our top tier,” said Carson, who entered the game averaging a team-high 18.6 points.
DePaul made sure it knew where Carson was at all times.
“We keyed real well on him, everybody had to talk and communicate on defense which we did well and that’s how we stopped him today. Just had to make sure we had somebody long on him,” Young said. Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter