To say that Arizona State struggled offensively on the road last week against Colorado and Utah would be putting it mildly. But the Sun Devils showed no sign of a carry-over on Wednesday, opening the game on an 8-0 run, capped by a pair of three point baskets by Shaquille McKissic and Jahii Carson, and never looked back.
Arizona State (20-8, 9-6 Pac-12) stretched its lead to as many as 15 points in the first half and 18 in the second half before cruising for the win.
Jermaine Marshall helped set the tone for the Sun Devils early on, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the first half. The Sun Devils shot 14-26 in the first half, including 7-11 from deep as the jumped ahead to a 39-29 halftime lead.
And then Jahii Carson took over.
After being held to just three points on 1-4 shooting in the first half, Carson respond with 23 points in the second half. The sophomore was a perfect 7-7 from the field and 8-8 from the free throw line, finishing with a game-high 26 points to go along with four assists and just one turnover in 35 minutes of action.
"Right after the first half, I pretty much know how they're defending me and it's easier for me to attack the defense," said Carson afterwards. "I can see the reads they're making off the pick and rolls, how they're guarding the bigs, how they're guarding my teammates, where the help's coming from, and it's pretty much easier for me to score in the second half."
After an Anthony Brown free throw trimmed the Arizona State lead to just nine points with eight minutes to play, Carson and the Sun Devils responded with a 9-0 run in which the point guard scored or assisted on all nine of the team's points to put the Cardinal away for good.
"I thought his decision-making was outstanding tonight," added Head Coach Herb Sendek. "He would go for stretches and not really make any shots. He was distributing the ball and creating opportunities for his teammates. And then there were other times where shot opportunities opened up for him and he capitalized."
It marked the 10th time this season that Carson has scored 20 or more for the Sun Devils. His 26 points were also the most the sophomore has scored at Wells Fargo Arena in his short ASU career.
McKissic added 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists as Arizona State improved to 15-1 at home on the year and moved into a four-way tie for third place in the Pac-12 standings.
"I think we got back to playing our style of basketball, which is up-tempo," said Carson. "When we played Colorado and Utah, we didn't have very many fast break points which doesn't help fuel our offense. We're an up-tempo type of team and we need transition buckets that help us score."
"Tonight we played great defense, got rebounds, and got out in transition and whenever we do that we're tough to beat."
After shooting just 31% in their two losses last week, the Sun Devils looked like a completely different team against the Cardinal, shooting 27-49 from the floor. ASU assisted on 18 of its 27 field goals and shot 10-19 from behind the three point line.
"We drove the gaps and stuck to the game-plan," commented Carson. "Our coaches told us coming into this game that they were a bad close-out team and that if we drove the gaps we would have opportunities for open shots. We did that and we knocked down our shots as well."
ASU's frontcourt struggled with foul trouble throughout the game as center Jordan Bachynski logged just 15 minutes, finishing with two points and three rebounds. Sophomore Eric Jacobsen added five points and six rebounds but fouled out after only 20 minutes of playing time.
Still, the Sun Devils managed to finish with a 30-26 edge over the Cardinal for points in the paint. Stanford out-rebounded ASU 33-30, but only managed 10 second chance points for the game on 14 offensive rebounds.
"A lot of teams wouldn't be happy with those rebounding numbers but for us we'll probably have a mild celebration tomorrow," said Sendek jokingly. "At least we didn't get out-rebounded by 20, 25, 30, 35."
Bo Barnes added eight points and six rebounds off the bench while junior Jon Gilling chipped in with six points and five rebounds. Arizona State's bench outscored Stanford's on the night, 17-5.
Anthony Brown led the Cardinal (18-9, 9-6 Pac-12) with 21 points, 18 of which came in the second half. He was one of three Stanford players to finish in double figures as junior Chasson Randle added 17 points before fouling out with 7:11 to play. Senior Dwight Powell finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
Arizona State returns to the court on Saturday when the Sun Devils host California in the final home game of the year. ASU will look to equal the school record for home wins in a season (16) and keep pace in the Pac-12 race. Tip-off is set for 4:00 pm.