The ASU student section had “James Harden Beard Night” Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena.
In its attempt to honor former Sun Devil, students wore bandana beards and the section remained silent until the men’s basketball team scored its 13th point against Washington State.
Coach Herb Sendek didn’t receive the memo.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is the quietest arena I’ve ever been in,’” Sendek said of the silence, which lasted for the first 10 minutes of the first half. “There’s no energy. There’s no spirit. What should I do? It’s dead in here.”
Sendek can rely on senior wing Carrick Felix and redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson like the team has done all season. Felix and Carson gave the team a jolt to lift the Sun Devils (20-7, 9-5 Pac-12) over the Cougars (11-16, 2-12 Pac-12) 69-57.
The silence lingered until the 10:09 mark when Felix splashed a three-pointer to tie the game at 14. The crowd erupted following the strange gimmick and ASU responded on a 22-8 run to end the half.
“It was confusing,” Felix said of the silence. “I didn’t know what was going on. It was awkward at first. It was like, ‘Are we bringing enough energy or does our crowd just not like what we’re doing?’ It was fun.”
Felix and Carson have been the main source of energy for this team and scored the team’s first 16 points to start the game. They combined for 44 of ASU’s 69 points. Felix had his 11th double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Carson had 21 points, four rebounds, five assists and four turnovers.
Felix and Carson shot a combined 14-of-23 from the floor and made nine of the team’s 13 field goals at halftime.
“We just tried to bring the energy,” Carson said. “When he brings it, it gives me an extra boost to go out there and bring it. I think our whole team just capitalizes on all of our energy.”
The energy dipped in the second half despite ASU’s 36-22 lead at halftime. The Sun Devils committed 10 of their 15 turnovers in the final half. They were up by 21 with 12:27 left and saw their lead dwindle down to eight with 2:24 left. The Cougars outscored the Sun Devils 25-12 in the 10-minute stretch.
“We did let up in the second half defensively, and that’s something that we have to take a step back and look,” Felix said. “We’re down in February now and we can’t give up leads like that.”
ASU kept its lead by, of all things, free throws. It finished 8-of-8 in the final two minutes at the charity stripe and went 15-of-18 during the game. The Sun Devils were last in the conference shooting 61.6 percent this season at the free throw line.
“That’s definitely something we’ve been working on so to finally see progress at the free throw line was good for us,” Felix said. “Those free throws could’ve put Washington State potentially in a position to comeback.”
The Sun Devils will play their home finale Saturday at Washington. It will also be Senior Night for Felix, senior guard Chris Colvin and senior center Ruslan Pateev. Tip-off is at 9 p.m. on ESPNU and 620 AM.
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