Against Arizona on Thursday night, the Wildcats turned the ball over 17 times and shot just 35% from the field but still pulled out a 57-53 victory. The Huskies lost because instead of capitalizing on Arizona's clunker, they matched it by shooting 36% from the field and 58% from the free-throw line while just making one of 12 three-point attempts to along with 17 turnovers of their own. Ugly game all around but one they could have stolen from the #8 team in the country.
On the other side of the state, Washington State was looking to make an impact in the Pac-12 standings but Jahii Carson simply would not have that. Despite missing 20 three-pointers in the game shooting just 4-11 from the charity stripe, the Sun Devils grinded it out in a 63-59 win. Carson was incredible as he scored 25 points, including 21 in the second half alone while Carrick Felix put together another double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Perhaps the most impressive number in that contest: just four turnovers for ASU including none from Carson.
The impact of this matchup with Washington for the Sun Devils is that every win moves them closer to that yet-to-be-determined magic number to get them into the NCAA Tournament. ASU probably needs 24 wins to be seriously considered for a ticket to the dance and that means winning seven of their final 11 games. Whether it is at home or on the road against a team heavily favored or a big underdog, it does not matter as long as the Sun Devils keep winning.
Lorenzo Romar: 10th season at UCLA – 231-122; 324-210 career
Herb Sendek: 7th season at ASU – 115-99; 369-257 career
G – Abdul Gaddy (11.3 PPG, 3.6 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (17.6 PPG, 5.3 APG)
F – C.J. Wilcox (18.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG) vs. Carrick Felix (14.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG)
F – Shawn Kemp, Jr. (4.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG) vs. Jon Gilling (9.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG)
F – Aziz N'Diaye (10.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (10.2 PPG, 4.3 BPG)
Why Washington Can Win:
Despite the losing streak and the average season they've put together so far, the Huskies are a good basketball team with talent at all five starting positions with good guys off the bench as well. Abdul Gaddy is a dynamic playmaker that can do it all but has been prone to turnovers. C.J. Wilcox is a scoring machine that can really stretch the defense. Scott Suggs is a threat to shoot if he has even the tiniest amount of separation.
Shawn Kemp and Desmond Simmons are a solid tandem down low with Aziz N'Diaye nearly averaging a double-double as the Huskies anchor in the paint. This rotation offers everything you need but consistency has plagued them. If the Huskies can hit from deep and get ASU into their bench – they should prevail.
Why ASU Can Win:
It doesn't matter what the schedule says, winning 17 of your first 21 is a big deal. From handing Jahii Carson the keys to the offense to hiring two seasoned assistants with NBA background and Carrick Felix's elevated game, the Sun Devils have proven they are not a flash in the pan but there is still work to be done.
Winning at Washington isn't easy for anyone but there are holes in this Husky squad and ASU is hot – the confidence is the most important thing for these Sun Devils. Against Wazzu, the Devils missed their first eight three-point attempts to start the game and ended the game with 31 tries from deep. To beat Washington, stay away from turnovers and stay away from foul trouble. Chris Colvin's return was welcome but anytime Jahii Carson is off the court, the Sun Devils are worse for it.
Key Stat: Evan Gordon is averaging 16.8 points and 39.2 minutes in the past five games and is 31-of-63 (.492) from the field in that time. Gordon's emergence is a huge reason for ASU's success.
X-Factor: Jon Gilling; against Washington State, the Dane was an ugly 1-9 from the field including 1-7 from deep but he didn't let his shooting woes eliminate his impact as he finished second on the team with six rebounds and actually led the team with four assists – Gilling continues to blossom as a solid all-around player. That being said, when he is consistently knocking down shots the Sun Devils are a far better basketball team as it allows Bachynski more isolation down low and gives Carson more options when attacking the basket. Gilling needs to find his stroke in Seattle for the Sun Devils to complete the sweep.
Final Score: ASU 70 Washington 64