While most of us spent the weekend enjoying turkey and stuffing, the Arizona State basketball team had little time to relax. The Sun Devils competed in the Las Vegas Invitational and played the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Creighton Jays over the holiday break.
On Friday evening, Carrick Felix led a spirited effort against the Razorbacks as the Sun Devils raced to an 83-68 victory. Felix collected a career high with 24 points as he scored in a variety of ways that made the senior wing nearly impossible to stop.
Felix accounted for 17 first-half points, including three three-pointers that helped the Sun Devils establish consistent offense from behind the arc.
Many of Felix’s buckets were set up by the stellar guard play of Jahii Carson and Chris Colvin. Though Colvin contributed just two buckets in the first half, he chose the right time to make his impact.
The Sun Devils trailed 41-39 with less than a minute to play until halftime, and Colvin scored twice in a row to give Arizona State a 43-41 edge at the break.
Jahii Carson and company shot out of the gates in the second half with an early 6-0 run as Carson keyed much of the second half offense with consistent drives that helped break down the Razorback defense. Carson tallied 19 points and went 7-11 from the free throw line as he made a number of shots down the stretch to help put the game away.
BJ Young scored a game high 29 points for the Razorbacks who employed a full-court pressure defense that gave the Sun Devils fits early on. However, Arizona State found a nice balance of perimeter shooting and post play to combat the disruptive defense. Center Jordan Bachynski led the charge down low with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and four second half blocks that kept the Razorbacks out of the paint down the stretch.
With the victory over Arkansas, the Sun Devils improved to 4-0 on the young season and earned a spot in the Las Vegas Invitational Championship against the No. 14 Creighton Jays.
A mid-major only in name, the Jays possess preseason player of the year candidate Doug McDermott. The Sun Devils hoped to limit McDermott’s point totals and use a balanced attack to tackle their first ranked opponent, but the Jays’ star torched Arizona State with a 29-point outing that propelled Creighton to an 87-73 win.
The Jays opened the game firing on all cylinders and found themselves ahead 27-9 early, but Jahii Carson and the Devils would not go down without a fight.
Coach Herb Sendek made the ill-advised decision of incorporating a zone defense early, and the Sun Devils paid the price by falling into an early deficit. Despite Jahii Carson’s game high 30 points, Arizona State never came closer than six points the rest of the way.
Carson had his best performance as a Sun Devil as he continued to display his talents, even with the level of competition improving steadily. The freshman point guard shot 9-17 from the field and dished out seven assists.
In its first two games, Arizona State had five different players reach double figures, but the Jays limited the majority of the Sun Devil starters. Carrick Felix totaled 17 points, but Jordan Bachynski, Jonathan Gilling, and Evan Gilling combined for just 18 points.
Coach Herb Sendek has been reluctant to use his bench players early on in the season, and their impact against Creighton was almost nonexistent. Chris Colvin accounted for six points in 29 minutes, and Eric Jacobsen was the only other nonstarter to find his way into the scoring column as he managed two points.
The Sun Devils competed with the Jays throughout most of the evening, but they could not rebound from their slow start. Creighton provided a great measuring stick for the Sun Devils, and they showed Arizona State what execution looks like for a full 40 minutes.
After falling to Creighton, the Sun Devils stand at 4-1 on the season. They return home to Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday evening to host Arkansas Pine-Bluff. Wednesday’s game will tip off at 6 p.m.