LAS VEGAS — Jahii Carson became the fourth freshman in ASU history to record 30 points in a game on Saturday.
It wasn’t enough to give the ASU men’s basketball team a win, however, as No. 14 Creighton defeated the Sun Devils 87-73 in the championship round of the Continental Tires Las Vegas Invitational.
“I just tried my best to get my team in rhythm and try to keep up with Creighton,” Carson said. “Creighton is the (14th-best) team in the country. I think we’re an elite team. … I just tried to get my team going.”
While he also had seven assists, four steals and four rebounds, Carson’s performance did not surprise ASU coach Herb Sendek. The coaching staff on the opposite bench, however, was even more impressed.
“We haven’t seen a guy like Jahii Carson yet this year,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “He’s hard to contain. We got tried legs trying to guard him.”
Creighton came out of the gates swinging. The Blue Jays took advantage of the Sun Devils’ matchup zone and started the game hitting 4-of-5 from the 3-point line. Creighton led by as much as 18 near the ten-minute mark, but a 9-0 run sparked by Carson and sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling and a switch to man-to-man defense brought the deficit to six for the majority of the bottom of the half. ASU went to the locker room down 45-35 at halftime.
Both teams’ stars stepped up in the first half. Carson already had 15 points, while Creighton junior forward Doug McDermott added 19 points. McDermott, Carson’s teammate on the U.S. men’s U-19 team in the summer of 2011, finished the game with 29 points and nine rebounds and ended up with the Tournament MVP award.
“He’s a pro,” Carson said. “I played with him overseas when we were in Europe, and I saw his pro potential there. He’s definitely tough for us to contain. He moves the ball very well. He posts up very strong. We expected him to have a big game, and we tried our best to play the best defense we could against him.
After a slow start by both teams, the Blue Jays built their lead to 14 in the second half. ASU again decimated the Blue Jay advantage by six several times throughout the quarter. Foul troubles, turnovers and missed open shots prevented the Sun Devils from taking the lead.
“There’s times we felt the game was getting out of reach, and we had to cut it down,” Carson said. “We had that extra effort, extra go, that extra kick. We had a spurt and cut it down to six a couple times. The more spurts we had, the more they got a little rattled and they figured, ‘This team’s not going away.’”
Creighton dominated ASU on the glass, as the Blue Jays outrebounded the Sun Devils 41-30. Junior Jordan Bachynski didn’t record a block for the first time this season, and he only finished with eight points and five rebounds. Sendek experimented with a variety of lineups, including one that featured 6-foot-7 Gilling at center late in the second half.
“They really caused us matchup problems,” Sendek said. “Obviously, McDermott is a tremendous player. I don’t think they beat themselves. They’re just a really solid team. They’re really difficult to defend with the matchups they present.”
Carson and senior wing Carrick Felix were named to the Las Vegas Invitational All-Tournament Team after the game. Sendek gave much praised to Creighton after the game and viewed Saturday Night as an opportunity for his team to move forward.
“I like the way our guys competed,” Sendek said. “This experience will be a really good learning one for us. I think this was a very valuable weekend for us here in Las Vegas playing against two good opponents.
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