Arizona State beat Washington State in a "really can't lose this one" kind of game in Tempe on Wednesday night. Brock Motum put up 17 hard-fought points to lead three Cougars in double figures but they could not stop Carson and Felix who combined for 44 points including 11-12 from the charity stripe. The Sun Devils jumped out to a huge lead and kept Wazzu at bay in the game's final minutes as the Sun Devils were an uncharacteristic 15-18 from the free-throw line.
In early February, the Huskies hosted the Sun Devils and snapped a four-game losing streak when they prevailed 96-92 in a tight back and forth matchup that saw Jahii Carson explode for 32 points, Jon Gilling hit six treys and a 64% shooting mark that is the highest shooting percentage by a team in a loss all season in NCAA hoops. Washington countered by completely dominating the interior, having a +16 rebounding advantage and hitting 21-22 free throws. Andrew Andrews led UW with 20 off the bench while five other Huskies were also in double digits.
After Saturday night, the schedule gets brutal. Three consecutive road games against UCLA, USC and Arizona before heading to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament. All that really means is that ASU needs this win over Washington in the worst way. Winning 20 games in a power conference used to be the ticket to the dance but that has changed and right now, the Sun Devils need to pad the resume as much as they possibly can. Joe Lunardi can say all the nice things he wants but unless ASU strings together a few more wins, the NIT will come calling once again.
Lorenzo Romar: 10th season at Washington – 231-122; 324-210 career
Herb Sendek: 7th season at ASU – 115-99; 369-257 career
G – Abdul Gaddy (11.2 PPG, 4.1 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (17.8 PPG, 4.9 APG)
F – C J Wilcox (17.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG) vs. Carrick Felix (14.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG)
F – Shawn Kemp, Jr. (5.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG) vs. Jon Gilling (9.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG)
F – Aziz N'Diaye (10.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (9.6 PPG, 3.8 BPG)
Why Washington Can Win:
It is highly unlikely that these two will combine to put 188 points again but the Huskies exposed the Sun Devils early and often by pounding the ball inside and taking a ton of high percentage shots or getting to the foul line. Aziz N'Diaye, a former teammate of Carrick Felix at the College of Southern Idaho, was extraordinarily efficient with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field and hitting both free throws he attempted, an impressive feat for a 43% free throw shooter. Shawn Kemp, Jr. was just as impressive with 18 points on 9-14 shooting while Desmond Simmons put up 10 points off the bench. All told, the Husky bigs scored 48 points, pulled down 23 rebounds, made all five of their free throws and kept ASU's three post players silent. For the Huskies to win, a similar interior performance will likely help them get there.
Why ASU Can Win:
For a team to score 92 points, shoot 64% from the field, make 12 three-pointers and win the turnover battle and lose is an impressive feat but Jordan Bachynski, Ruslan Pateev and Eric Jacobsen know what they have to do to make sure something like that never happens again. Washington owned every bit of the paint on both ends and outlasted ASU. The recipe for success is not a complicated one: Jahii Carson needs to push as much as he can and force defenders to collapse to get open looks for his teammates. Jordan Bachynski has to be fearless with the basketball in his hands and he needs to be more concerned with stopping his opponent on defense instead of going for the block. The troika of Gordon, Felix and Gilling are all vital in that when their shots fall, the floor opens up a lot more and allows for a faster tempo. For the Sun Devils to win this game, the post game will be most important thing to keep an eye on but the long balls need to drop as well.
Key Stat: If you take the stats of the six best scorers Carrick Felix has defended in Pac-12 play this season, you will find a common theme: underperforming. Felix has forced opponents to just 28% shooting and five points below their average. The senior from Goodyear also has eight double-doubles this year and is one of only two players in the Pac-12 to have multiple 20 point-10 rebound outings, the other is Stanford's Dwight Powell.
X-Factor: The crowd; it is the last home game of the season and these seniors deserve zero empty seats at Wells Fargo Arena. While a sell-out is ambitious, this team has won 20 games, they are a win away from tying the school record for most home wins in school history and the Felix/Carson duo is one of the most exciting tandems on college basketball. Show them some love.
Final Score: ASU 74 Washington 69