Carson scores 25 as ASU wins third straight
JAN 31, 2013 10:34p ET
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.