On Wednesday night, the Sun Devil basketball team reached a milestone few experts could have foreseen.
Picked by members of the Pac-12 media to finish 11th in the conference, Arizona State recorded win No. 20 in a 69-57 drubbing of the Washington State Cougars.
The win spoke volumes about the way things have gone for Coach Herb Sendek’s squad.
A strong first half from freshman point guard Jahii Carson propelled the maroon and gold to a 14-point halftime advantage while a dominant effort from captain Carrick Felix helped the team fend off a late Cougars’ rally.
Carson and Felix have become a deadly duo as their on-court chemistry helps methodically break down their opponents’ defensive setup.
The pairing will face another tall task on Saturday night as they match up against a Washington Huskies squad that defeated them in a nail-biter earlier this season.
The Sun Devils trailed by 18 points in their battle with the Huskies in Seattle, but fought back to tie the game before collapsing in the final seconds.
Despite only getting 10 points from its star wing, Arizona State was able to keep it close, mostly due to a 32-point performance from Carson, a career high.
Felix’s 10 point, four rebound outing was just one of few quiet performances that he has had this season. He will be looking for vengeance on Saturday night, which will likely be his final home game.
As the Huskies come to Tempe, they’ll prepare to face a hungry Sun Devil team eager to prove that they belong in the NCAA tournament.
Perhaps more dangerous for Washington is the fact that Saturday’s game is senior night for Arizona State, and Carrick Felix will be gunning to close out his home career with a bang.
Keys to the Game
1. Find Felix Early
Washington is one of only a handful of teams to find success against the dynamic Sun Devil senior as Felix only took nine shots in 29 minutes of action. The captain was hampered by foul trouble, but the Sun Devils need their leader to step up in the final home game of his career if they want revenge against the Huskies.
2. Control the Paint
Though rarely a magnet for fouls, center Jordan Bachynski committed the maximum in 29 minutes against Washington in Seattle. Aziz N’Diaye owned the paint with 16 points and 10 boards against Arizona State and he’ll be looking to slow down Bachynski who stepped up with a great performance against Washington State on Wednesday.
3. Start Fast, End Fast
Arizona State overcame a 16-point deficit in 15 minutes in the last matchup with Washington, and if not for the poor first half, the Sun Devils could have defeated the Huskies with ease. Typically, the closing minutes have been the tough ones for the Sun Devils, so playing a full 40 minutes of basketball is essential if they want to secure win No. 21.
Matchup to Watch:
Jahii Carson vs. Abdul Gaddy
The Sun Devil freshman has been nothing short of sensational this season, but his best performance came in his matchup against Gaddy’s Huskies. Gaddy has been Carson’s foil this season; where Carson has exceeded any and all expectations for Arizona State, Gaddy has continued his career of disappointment for the Huskies during his final season.
Gaddy had one of his cleaner offensive performances of the season, scoring eight points and dishing out seven assists against Arizona State, but the Huskies will need him to play a more efficient defensive game if they want to slow down the Sun Devil superstar.
It is unlikely that Carson will score 32 again, but he has proven to thrive against guards like Gaddy. He should be able to use his athleticism to hurry past Gaddy’s size and have another outstanding outing.