The Sun Devils (22-12, 9-9 Pac-12) defeated Detroit 83-68 Wednesday in the first round of the NIT.
The win was a bit tougher than expected though considering the first half result.
ASU led 46-27 at halftime and completed dominated the Titans (20-13, 12-4 Horizon). The Sun Devils dominated the glass 27-6 and held the Titans to just 22.2 percent from the floor.
“I thought Carrick Felix in particular, as he has done all year, has really done a good job with his talk to the team making sure we were ready to go,” coach Herb Sendek said. “The other guys echoed what he was saying and came out and really set the tone early with our defense.”
Senior wing Carrick Felix and redshirt point guard Jahii Carson had the same amount of points at halftime as Detroit’s entire team, but the Sun Devils saw their lead diminish to single digits during the second half.
The Titans started the second half on a 9-0 run. They even cut the lead to nine with 12:58 left in the game on senior forward Doug Anderson’s dunk to make it 46-55. Detroit was able to capitalize on a season-high 24 turnovers for ASU. Its previous high was 18. Carson and Felix had six each.
“I think we were just excited to be out here in the postseason,” Carson said. “When you get so excited, you go so fast and you happen to turn the ball over.”
Felix responded with consecutive buckets following Detroit’s run. It spurred a 10-2 run to stretch the lead back out to 17 with 8:24 left. He had 21 points, on 8-of-13 shooting, and seven rebounds.
“I don’t think they were used to the physicality of the Pac-12 and we brought that a little bit to them,” Carson said. “The league that they play in is used to ball screens and guard play but we forced it inside and we tried to punish them. We just tried to show them how we get down in the Pac.”
Carson nearly flirted with a triple-double with a game-high 22 points, a career-high 10 rebounds and seven assists. It’s his 17th 20-point game this season, surpassing James Harden’s school freshman mark.
“I didn’t even know,” Carson said. “Well dang. I’m speechless. I don’t go out there and get points. I just try to go out there and attack the basket. It’s tough for teams to guard someone so small who is able to create around the basket as well as I do.”
The Sun Devils will now advance to the next round of the NIT and travel to Baylor Friday. The Bears defeated Long Beach State 112-66 Wednesday in Waco, Texas. With Kentucky eliminated, the winner of Friday’s contest will get to host one more NIT game.
“It’s short-lived because we’re going to actually have to travel and prepare in the concourse tomorrow as we go to Baylor to play,” Sendek said. “If you hear any reports about us having a walkthrough and practicing in Concourse B, it’s probably true.
“I know before we took the court, they were up by almost 30. We’re very familiar with Long Beach, and they’re a good team. They’re a talented team. Obviously, when you look at talent quotient, Baylor is as talented as any team you’re going to find in this field and most any team in the country. We know we got a heck of a challenge Friday night, but this group will go down and give it their best shot we know that.”
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on ESPN Networks.
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