Texas Tech Head Coach Tubby Smith wanted to slow down the up-tempo Arizona State offense on Saturday and for the first 16 minutes of the first half, the Red Raiders were able to control the pace of the game while clinging to a narrow two point lead.
But that's when the Sun Devils awoke from their slumber, closing out the half on an 11-0 run and putting the Red Raiders away before they even had a chance to react.
After converting the first of two free throws to pull Arizona State (10-2, 7-0 home) within one, junior Jon Gilling's second attempt rimmed out but was corralled by Egor Koulechov. The freshman quickly passed back out to Gilling, who knocked down an open three point attempt - one of ten on the night for the Sun Devils - and the scoring fury began.
Texas Tech missed its final eight shots of the half while ASU surged ahead for a 34-25 lead and refused let up in the second half.
Senior Jermaine Marshall scored 17 of his season-high 27 points in the second half, including 14 of the team's first 16 points after intermission, as the Sun Devils stretched their lead to as many as 17 points midway through the period.
"They were killing us on the boards," said Carson afterwards. "We had guys come in with huge energy bursts and we wanted to go into halftime up by about two to three points. I think we just got gritty and felt they were knocking us around on the boards, so we had to put a stop to that."
While Texas Tech (7-5, 1-3 away) dominated the paint against the undersized Sun Devils, outscoring ASU 40-22 and finishing +13 in rebounds, the Red Raiders had no answer for the Arizona State backcourt duo.
Carson recorded his first double-double of the season, and just the second of his Arizona State career, with 16 points and career-high 13 assists in 40 minutes of action. The freshman also added seven rebounds while searching for the red hot Marshall at all times.
Marshall, who finished just three points shy of equaling his career-high set at Penn State, added six rebounds, two assists and converted seven of his 10 three point attempts.
Arizona State knocked down 10 of their 19 three point tries as a team while limiting Texas Tech to just 1-13 from outside.
"I think it's confidence," said Marshall of the team's perimeter shooting. "Coach Herb gives us the freedom to shoot them, but on the other hand, he has us in the gym putting up extra shots after practice and guys are dedicating themselves to the gym as well. I think we're just confident down the line. We look for each other and find each other on the perimeter and we knock them down."
"They can't stop me from going to the paint, so if (the defense) helps off him, he's knocking down threes," added Carson. "So then they start to deny him and I still get so deep that they still have to help and he's still going to knock them down. And it's easier for me getting to the basket knowing that sometimes they have to deny him."
"When he and Jon get going, I can fill up the assist stat line pretty well, which is awesome for me because I don't need to score."
Not only were Carson's 13 assists a career-high, but it also marked his first double-digit assist game at Arizona State. On a night when he struggled to find his rhythm offensively against the bigger Red Raider guards, Carson was able to create for his teammates, igniting the Sun Devil offense in a variety of ways, much to his own delight.
"I actually really prefer to throw the dimes," he said. "I like to score as well, but when my teammates are hitting shots it takes that much more off me to score and I can play more defenses and try to help the bigs on the boards. When those guys get going, it's much easier. My quickness helps them get their shots off and when they knock them down, I think we're tough to beat."
"I told (Marshall) at halftime, 'I think I got six,' and he said, 'I'll get you 10.' I said, 'Well, I really don't want 10; I want about 12.' And he was like, 'I'm gonna get you that too.'"
Junior guard Brandan Kearney also made his debut for Arizona State on Saturday. The Michigan State transfer came off the bench, registering four minutes in the win. Senior Jordan Bachynski added 12 points, eight rebounds, and seven blocks for the Sun Devils.
ASU improved to 21-10 over the last seven seasons under Sendek with at least five full days between games and 23-4 at home in the last two years. The Sun Devils will look to notch their third consecutive win with a week to prepare when they host UC-Irvine at noon on December 28th at Wells Fargo Arena in their final non-conference challenge before Pac-12 play begins.
"We have one more non-conference game that will be a real challenge for us," said Head Coach Herb Sendek. "UC-Irvine is picked to win their conference. They've already harnessed a great win at (Washington). They have a 7'6" starting center. We've got to much sure that we're all hands on deck for that game next Saturday at noon. And then as you look into our conference right now, it's just amazing how good it is and we have to play all those teams twice."