TEMPE, Ariz. — Carrick Felix and Jahii Carson have been close for some time now. They played two summers of AAU ball together starting when Carson was 13 years old, beating older kids and making them crazy. Felix saw it happen.
Their chemistry was showing in a 69-57 Pac-12 victory over Washington at Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday, when the Sun Devils reached 20 victories for the fourth time in the last six seasons and took another step closer to their first NCAA tournament berth since 2009.
Felix had 23 points and Carson had 21, and the two sparked Arizona State (20-7, 9-5) by accounting for the Sun Devils’ first 28 points.
“The thing about those two guys is, they love to play,” coach Herb Sendek said.
“They are a little bit like basketball’s version of Ernie Banks.”
Let’s score two.
Felix was 7-for-11 from the field and Carson was 7-for-12 as ASU shot 50 percent from the field. Felix made left-handed and right-handed driving shots to open the game, then made 3-pointer from the right baseline and left wing as the Sun Devils opened a 22-17 lead.
Carson, 5-foot-10, punctuated a 14-3 run to end the half with a 14-point lead on a length-of-the court slam. Carson took a one-handed rebound after a D.J. Shelton miss and took off up the floor. He pushed through two defenders at the Washington State foul line and got to the hoop for his first Wells Fargo dunk.
“I’ve been waiting to get one here. I saw it and I said, ‘Oh, yeah, I got to take this one.’ I don’t want anybody on my head for not dunking at home this year,” said Carson, who had a dunk at Washington three weeks ago.
“He brought all the energy. Little point guard. Speedy Gonzalez,” Felix said.
ASU had 22 victories in Felix’s first two seasons, so this year has been special.
“For me, whew, thank god,” Felix said about reaching 20. “It’s definitely amazing. It says a lot about this tram. It says a lot about the guys and the coaching staff. This is what we set forth to do this year. We wouldn’t be in this spot unless everybody was all in, like coach Sendek says.
“We definitely need more. We are not going to stop now. We definitely have an opportunity to go the tournament, and that is our goal right now. But we still want to stay in the present day.”
If the rest of the season goes the way Arizona State wants, Felix will play his last home game against Washington (14-13, 6-8) on Saturday night. The Huskies lost to Arizona, 70-52, on Wednesday.
“I haven’t wanted to think about it, but it’s here. It’s going to be an emotional time,” Felix said.
“I’ve been here for three years, and all the trials and tribulations I have been through throughout my college career. To know that it’s almost at the end with these guys. I’ve built lifetime relationships that I thought I would never have. It’s definitely going to be hard, but at the same time it’s going to be exciting
The path to the NCAA tournament seems clear enough to Carson.
“If we win all of our games, there is no question we will be in it. We slip up and start losing close ones, that means we are on the bubble and there is a chance we won’t go,” he said
Not only did the Sun Devils outshoot and outrebound (37-26) Washington State, they also made 15-of-18 free throws, including eight in the final 1:35, after the Cougars closed the margin to eight points on three occasions. Carson and Evan Gordon made two apiece, and Felix made four.
“Most significantly, we made our free throws,” Sendek said.
Brock Motum led the Cougars with 17 points and Phoenix Sunnyslope High product Royce Woolridge had 16 points. They shot 40.4 percent.
“We got beat by a better team tonight. Arizona State’s quickness and their aggressive play was just very effective in us not getting a lo0t of good looks in the second half,” Washington State Ken Bone said. Felix and Carson scored the first 16 ASU points before Jordan Bachynski scored on a three-point play on a feed from Carson for a 19-17 lead, and the Sun Devils did not trail again. Felix’s free throw, Carson’s length of the court slam and 3-pointers by Evan Gordon and Jonathan GIlling (two) helped build a 36-22 lead, and Carson’s 3-pointer with 12:17 remaining made it 49-28, enough of a cushion to withstand Washington State’s late run. Carson had five assits.
Bachynski was the only other Sun Devil in double figures, scoring 12 points to go with his seven rebounds and and five blocked shots. Bachynski had two slam dunks in the final 8 ½ minutes, his second straight 12-point game.
“It’s really significant,” Sendek said of Bachynski’s game.