Carson scores 25 as ASU wins third straight

Jahii Carson positioned himself where the midcourt
line meets the left sideline and dribbled the time away, 15 feet from
any other player on the floor. Leading by two, Arizona State put the
ball in Carson’s hands with 49 seconds remaining, and Washington State
let it stay there until it was way too late.
 
As the shot clock
wound down, Carson drove the right side of the lane and despite an
8-inch size disadvantage banked the clinching layup over Dexter
Kernich-Drew with 11.3 seconds remaining, lifting Arizona State to a
63-59 Pac-12 victory at Friel Court and building on the momentum the Sun
Devils gained by sweeping USC and UCLA last weekend.
 
Carson had
25 points, 19 in the second half, and had 12 of the final 18 points to
help Arizona State overcome a nine-point first-half deficit and 39
percent shooting from the floor.

On a day Carson was selected as
one of 12 midseason watch list for the Wayman Tisdale Award given to the
NCAA freshman of the year, Carson demonstrated his bona fides.
 
“Jahii
was spectacular in the second half and down the stretch. He’s just an
amazing competitor. He has tremendous self-confidence. Unbelievable
poise for a young player,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said in a radio
interview afterward.
 
While everyone else in the first division
lost or already had lost save travel partner Arizona, the Sun Devils
(17-4, 6-2) moved into a tie for second place with the Wildcats while
continuing the strongest start in 31 years. The last time ASU was 17-4
was in 1980-81, when Fat Lever, Byron Scott and Alton Lister were among
the major contributors.
 
At this point of the season, ASU and the
NCAA tournament can be used in the same sentence with sincerity. The
Sun Devils are one of four teams with a winning conference record as
they prepare to close out the first half of league play at Washington
(12-9, 4-4) on Saturday night.
 
Carrick Felix had 11 points and
11 rebounds, his third straight double-double and eighth of the season,
and Evan Gordon added 13 points. ASU shot only 38.7 percent from the
field, but it had a season-low four turnovers. Carson had none in 36
minutes; the trio of Carson, Felix and Gordon did not commit a turnover
in a combined 108 minutes.
 
“The only thing that really stands out was playing with four turnovers,” Sendek said.
 
Because
of early difficult defending the 3-point line, ASU went to a smaller
lineup much of the second half and was more efficient defensively.
Washington State (11-10, 2-6) shot 39.6 percent from the field, but
after making 7-of-14 3-point attempts to take a 28-26 halftime lead made
only 2-of-9 threes in the second half.
 
Sendek played his three
guards – Carson, Gordon and Chris Colvin – with small forward Felix and a
center most of the first 12 minutes of the second half. Colvin had six
points, five assists and no turnovers in his first appearance since the
Oregon game on Jan. 18 after being suspended for the previous three home
games, a loss to Arizona and a sweep of the Los Angeles schools. The
Sun Devils really missed Colvin against Arizona, which exploited
Carson’s second-half foul trouble to turn a two-point game into a 71-54
victory at Wells Fargo Arena on Jan. 19.
 
Forwards Jonathan
Gilling and Felix took turns on 6-foot-10 Brock Motum and held him in
check. While Motum had 11 points and 11 rebounds, he made only 3-of-13
field goal attempts and was a non-factor offensively. He led the Pac-12
in scoring last season and was fourth in the league with a 17.3 point
scoring average coming in.
 
“Any time you can hold him to 11 points, that’s a job well done,” Sendek said.
 
Arizona
State was about as cold as the Palouse can get after Carson and Jordan
Bachynski scored in the first 3 ½ minutes. The Sun Devils went eight
possessions without scoring before Gordon snapped an 0-for-9 streak from
the field with a 17-foot jumper with 9:21 left in the half to cut
Washington State’s lead to seven, 13-6. The Sun Devils went six minutes,
51 seconds without scoring, and they could be considered fortunate that
Washington State was not further ahead.
 
Things changed quickly
after Gordon’s hoop, when Colvin and Gilling made 3-pointers on
back-to-back possessions to get ASU within one, 13 -12. The Sun Devils
missed their first nine 3-point attempts before Colvin drained his from
the left wing. Washington State went up by seven later in the first
half, but ASU maintained contact with 3-pointers by Colvin, Felix and
Gordon, whose three from the right wing with 13 seconds remaining
brought the Sun Devils within two, 28-26, at halftime.
 
“Our guys
did a good job of taking a punch, not playing our best. The guys
maintained positive body language. Nobody panicked. We fought back,”
Sendek said.
 
Felix did not score and had one rebound in 13
first-half minutes, but he made some big plays to keep Arizona State
going in the second. His baseline 3-pointer gave ASU a 33-32 lead five
minutes into the second half, its first lead since 2-0. His slam dunk
made it 40-46 with 12 ½ minutes left. After Washington State went back
ahead, 46-43, Felix hit two 3-pointers in the final five minutes, the
only points Carson did not score, the second for a 58-51 lead that the
Cougars battled through.
 
With the scored tied at 58, Felix
missed a short shot in the lane but stole the ball from Motum as he
attempted to dribble up court, and ASU turned that possession into a
3-point play — layup, free throw — by Carson for a 61-58 lead with
1:33 remaining. At 61-59, Felix rebounded a Cougars miss with 49 seconds
left, setting up Carson’s final foray.
 
“Once again Carrick Felix imposed his will and wouldn’t let our team lose,” Sendek said.