For Jahii Carson, what happens in Vegas is impossible to keep in Vegas.
It makes national news. Thomas and Mack Center. The Orleans Arena. The MGM Garden Arena. No matter the venue, no matter the opponent, Carson headlines his own show every time he sets foot in town.
It happened again Tuesday.
Carson added another bullet point in a case to reach his stated preseason goals — All-American, Pac-12 player of the year — when he hoisted Arizona State on his shoulders by scoring 26 of his career-high 40 points in the second half of an 86-80 victory over UNLV at Thomas and Mack.
Jordan Bachynski had his fourth straight double-double with 17 points and a career-high-tying 15 rebounds, Jermaine Marshall had 20 points and three blocked shots — two in the final minutes — and freshman forward Egor Koulechov took another giant step forward with five points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 34 minutes.
All played well.
But it was Carson’s night, and it was enough to make grown men gush.
“Man, was he sensational,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said in a postgame radio interview.
CBS TV commentator Doug Gottlieb, a nice college guard in his own right, was more effusive.
“You are going to see some impressive performances this year in college basketball, but I’m not sure you are going to see as individually as dominant a performance as what we saw from Jahii Carson,” Gottlieb said.
“Simply taking over a basketball game.”
ASU, 4-0 for the second straight year, trailed by seven points with 13:32 remaining before Carson took over. He made back-to-back 3-pointers behind Bachynski screens to jump start a 14-5 run. Carson had 18 points and three assists from that point, and UNLV led for just 17 seconds the rest of the way.
Outside shooting and using his left hand were two of Carson’s points of emphasis this offseason, and he started well in both areas. He is 8-for-14 on 3-point attempts this season after making 2-of-3 Tuesday.
That he did it in Las Vegas is nothing new. Carson has played five games at three sites in Vegas. He twice set career highs in scoring, getting 30 points against Creighton in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena on Nov. 24, 2012, and scoring 34 against Stanford in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM on March 13.
“I just like to play on the road,” Carson said in postgame interviews. “You’re the underdog. You come into the building. The teams are gigged up on their home floor. The bright lights are on. The fans are going crazy. I feel I need to be strong every time the lights are on.
“The energy in this building was great. We needed a big win. I knew I had to come out and perform. I knew if I led by example, my teammates would do the same.”
Carson, 5-feet-11, is the first ASU player to score 40 points since James Harden did so against UTEP in the 76 Classic in the Anaheim Convention Center on Nov. 30, 2008. Carson made 16-of-25 field goals and had seven assists and three rebounds.
“Any time a team plays man-to-man, deny defense, I try to attack it early and see how they are going to play it,” Carson said.
“A lot of teams know that I am a drive-first guard, and they try go under screens. The more and more confident I get out there on that three, it is going to hard for them to do that. Teams can’t really go under them because I’m going to try to punish them and hit the open jump shot.”