ASU continued their hopeful road toward a NCAA tournament berth Wednesday with their 20th win over Washington State, 69-57.
The game, headlined as “James Harden Beard Night”, was another marginal victory in a season of abundant nail-biters.
Despite a persistent comeback attempt by the Cougars, ASU was able to finish the game with the 12-point win.
“We did let up though in the second half defensively, and that’s something we have to take a step back and look at,” said Carrick Felix.
A big factor in keeping that lead and securing the victory was the Sun Devils knocking down their free throws in the second half, going an uncharacteristic 10-12 down the stretch.
“It felt good, definitely something we’ve been working on. To finally see progress at the free throw line was good for us, those free throws could have potentially put Washington State in the position to come back,” said Felix.
ASU’s leader throughout the game’s entirety was Felix who registered 23 points and 11 rebounds.
The senior forward was assisted by point guard Jahii Carson, who poured in 21 points and five assists.
Jordan Bachynski, who showed life in the second half of the game with an apparent defensive presence, came up with five blocks to go along with his 12 points and seven rebounds.
Amazingly, the Sun Devils’ two scoring leaders were able to put up their numbers while enduring foul trouble for most of the contest. Carson committed four fouls, while Felix had three early fouls of his own.
The first half saw the Sun Devils playing sluggish offense for the first 10 minutes of the game.
Up to that point, the student section had been honoring a vow to stay quiet until Arizona State scored 13 points in honor of Harden and his beard.
After Felix hit a 3-pointer in the corner to tie the game at 14-14, ASU went on a 22-8 run to end the first half with a 36-22 lead, one they’d hold onto for the rest of the game.
Although the Arizona State student section knew of the plan to keep silent, the Sun Devils team was not aware of the gesture for Harden whatsoever.
“I was confused, I didn’t know what was going on,” Felix playfully admitted.
Even ASU head coach Herb Sendek was lost in the arena’s silence.
“I’m thinking to myself, this is the quietest arena I’ve ever been in, there’s no energy, there’s no spirit; what should I do? It’s dead in here,” Sendek said.
“And I only find out after the game because nobody tells me anything, that the students had this pact that they weren’t going to erupt until we scored our 13th point.”
The Sun Devils will play in their home finale against the Washington Huskies on Saturday night.