Arizona State’s Jahi Carson has proclaimed himself the best point guard in the Pac-12, stating this is especially noteworthy considering he is just a freshman. Though arguably Carson is in fact the best point guard in the Pac, it is also quite evident after playing #7 Arizona yesterday that Carson is also a freshman. It was also quite clear to the Sun Devils yesterday that their team will not succeed against tougher competition with Carson alone.
Though Arizona State’s two best players (Carson and Carrick Felix) accounted for 27 of ASU’s 54 points, they also played fairly sloppy, freshman-like ball when they weren’t scoring points–they also accounted for 11 of ASU’s 17 turnovers and 8 of ASU’s 17 personal fouls (they each had 4 fouls, including a technical foul, rendering them–and especially Carson–less effective on defense). Meanwhile, Arizona’s two best scorers, Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill, brought in 37 points, had only 5 of Arizona’s 9 turnovers and never got into any foul trouble whatsoever. Carson was only able to rely on one other player to score double digits with him (Carson had 22 and Evan Gordon had 14), while the rest of the team couldn’t handle Arizona’s feisty defense (the Wildcats held ASU to just 39% shooting and 25% from three point range). With Nick Johnson racking up another 19 points for Arizona, ASU was considered done for.
This season, Arizona State’s head coach Herb Sendek has decided to take advantage of his team’s talent by switching from a disciplined zone defense to a man-to-man. The problem with this becomes clear when the other team has more quality and quantity of talent, which Sean Miller used to his advantage. Arizona drove to the basket early and often, blowing by Arizona State and shooting 46% off of easy lay-ins, lay-ups and shots around the hoop (Solomon Hill’s dunk over 7’2″ Jordan Bachynski–who leads the Pac in blocks–was especially spectacular). With Carson’s early foul trouble, Lyons’ ability to drive around Carson and make ASU look silly became a show of comedy.
The Sun Devils did, however, stick with Arizona for a solid 30 minutes. Like many other teams this year, however, ASU simply ran out of energy at that point, unable to handle Arizona’s depth of athleticism–Arizona’s ability to continue relentlessly pounding on the gas pedal. At the 9:50 mark in the second half and up by only two points, Arizona would then go on a 10-0 run in the span of three minutes and never look back, putting the Devils away in their own stadium for good. As has happened on numerous occasions, the “U of A!” chant by Arizona fans could–and embarrassingly so–be heard throughout Wells Fargo Arena.