Carson-led ASU wins big, passes 2011 win total

TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State’s early portion of the season was a smashing success, and it ended with another lopsided victory Saturday. The Sun Devils surpassed their victory total from 2011, the final season of the pre-Jahii Carson era, by keeping Coppin State at bay in a relatively easy 68-52 win.

With Carson, the precocious freshman point guard, teasingly close to a triple-double and Jonathan Gilling exhibiting his range from the perimeter for a second straight game, the Devils finished nonconference play at a sparkling 11-2, their best start since James Harden’s final year.

Carson had 15 points, a career-high eight rebounds and seven assists, and Gilling had 14 points while going 4 for 9 from 3-point range. Gilling has hit 10 3-pointers in the last two games, his six keying a road win over Texas Tech a week ago.

Carson had six rebounds and six assists at halftime, and his first career triple-double – and ASU’s second of the season, after Jordan Bachynski had one Dec. 8 – seemed likely. He is prepared to help in any way necessary.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Carson said. “Try to get my teammates as open as possible and get them open shots, and definitely get rebounds and take some of the pressure off the bigs. It’s definitely something I think helps the team more. It takes a lot of pressure off … if I can get in there and snag the little sneaky ones (rebounds).

“So I definitely try to get a triple-double.”

Carson has been the key to the precipitous rise for a team that finished 10-19 a year ago without him after he was ineligible for academic reasons. He is averaging 17.8 points and 5.5 assists, on pace to become the first NCAA freshman since Seton Hall’s Shaheen Holloway more than 15 years ago to average at least 15 and five, according to ESPN Stats. Holloway averaged 17.3 points and 6.3 assists in 1996-97.

And as Carson helped Gilling get open shots, Gilling also helped Carson find lanes to the basket against a Coppin State defense that had to respect not only his outside shooting but also that of Evan Gordon, who had three 3-pointerss and 11 points. ASU went 10 for 30 from 3-point range as a team. The 30 attempts were their most this season, while their 10 makes were third. The Sun Devils had 14 treys in their decisive 77-62 victory at Texas Tech a week ago.

“He’s moving. He’s maneuvering,” Carson said of GIlling. “He wants to touch the ball. He wants to hit the 3-pointers, because he knows if he hits them it allows us guard to get in the paint and finish, and it allows them to collapse and him get even more open shots.”

ASU finished nonconference play on a three-game winning streak for the first time since 1977-78. The Sun Devils open Pac-12 play against Utah at home on Wednesday before playing defending conference tournament champion Colorado on Jan. 6.

“I think we had a good nonconference. We surpassed our win total from last year, so we are pretty confident going into conference,” Carson said.

“But, you know, it is 0-0 when we step into conference. Utah already surpassed its win total from last year. We’re just ready to focus on them.”

ASU’s only losses this season have been a 14-point defeat to then-No. 14 Creighton in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational and a 17-point loss to a scrappy DePaul team that got the Sun Devils out of their rhythm with a pressure defense.

“We’ve had a good nonconference,” coach Herb Sendek said. “Obviously ready to turn the page and start Pac-12 play. For the most part, as we look back, I think our guys have played good basketball and have steadily gotten better. When you get in the conference, everything kind of gets reset. And then it happens again when you get into the conference tournament. College basketball always is three seasons in one.”

Coppin State (3-11) did not have the look of stiff challenger coming in. The Eagles opened the season with a loss to USC in the first game of the Maui Invitational and were coming off a 30-point loss at Iowa, their fifth stop on a seven-game, 25-day road trip that concludes a game at Akron on New Year’s Eve. Their victories have come against Cheyney, Maryland-Baltimore County and Towson.

Yet the smallish Eagles scored 21 of the first 38 points and made four 3-pointers before ASU closed out the half with a burst of its own. The Sun Devils got threes from Chris Colvin, Gilling and Gordon and held Coppin State to two baskets on its final 11 possessions to open up a 37-26 halftime lead.

Gordon hit another 3-pointer in a 7-0 run to start the second half as ASU pulled away, and the Sun Devils led by as many as 25 after Carson hit a trey with four minutes remaining.