For at least the next couple of days, the criticism surrounding ASU redshirt sophomore point guard Jahii Carson can cease.
Wednesday ended up being Wayback Wednesday for Carson. He got to the basket, he hit shots from the perimeter and he drove left (his weak hand) at several times.
Most importantly, he was doing all the things a point guard is supposed to do.
Carson scored 26 points — the most he’s ever had at home — on 8-of-11 shooting and recorded four assists as the Sun Devils (20-8, 9-6 Pac-12) defeated Stanford in a 76-64 wire-to-wire win, presumably locking up ASU’s spot in the NCAA Tournament.
In his final season, Carson has been taking a lot of heat for his regressed play as he gets ready to move on to the NBA Draft. He said he’s never listened to it, though, and that it was a result of simply having a good night.
“I don’t care what anyone says about my game,” Carson said. “I’ve been criticized my whole life. I’m just glad we got the ‘W.’ ”
Carson’s ball distribution helped the team record 18 assists on 27 field goals, yet the box score doesn’t fully describe how fluid ASU’s offense was on Wednesday night.
“I don’t recall at any time this season when we had better ball movement, better action on offense,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “Guys played unselfishly and they played smart on offense. They took good shots, they made each other better and they were really connected on offense.”
Other Sun Devils had big nights as well. Senior guard Jermaine Marshall had 16 points — more than the last two games at Utah and Colorado combined — on 6-of-12 shooting. Redshirt junior guard Bo Barnes had eight points and grabbed six rebounds on several hustle plays. Junior forward Jonathan Gilling added two 3-pointers and six assists.
ASU broke out on a quick 8-0 run in the first 1:35 of the game. The Cardinal (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12) played most of the first half playing a matchup zone defense, but the Sun Devils made Stanford pay by drilling seven 3-pointers before halftime. ASU was also able to swarm Stanford’s ballhandlers and drew several offensive fouls, causing the Cardinal to commit 15 turnovers the entire game.
ASU went into the break with a 39-29 lead.
Stanford junior guard Chasson Randle had 17 points and tried to keep the Cardinal in the game, but he picked up his fifth foul with 10:09 left in the game. The Sun Devils steadily held the lead from that point.
Sendek was pleased with how the coaching staff scouted Stanford heading into Wednesday. Limiting Cardinal senior forward Dwight Powell was a priority, as he only finished with 11 points on 2-of-9 shooting. Powell had a career-high 28 points in the first meeting in Palo Alto, Calif., on Feb. 1.
“I just thought we played a very good team defensive game,” Sendek said. “Our guys did a really good job zeroing in, focusing and playing with great purpose on defense.”
Unlike the first game between the two teams, ASU was able to battle Stanford’s length despite going through foul trouble and being forced to play smaller lineups. Grabbing 30 rebounds compared to Stanford’s 33 is never something a team can celebrate, but it was actually a bright spot to Sendek.
“We’ll probably have a mild celebration tomorrow,” Sendek said with a smile. “At least we didn’t get outrebounded by 20, 25, 30, 35. We did show improvement.”
The only blemish of ASU’s night was senior center Jordan Bachynski failed to get going the entire night. He played just 15 minutes due to foul trouble and only recorded two points and three rebounds. It was the first game this season Bachynski, the Pac-12’s all-time leader in blocks, did not record a block.
ASU hosts its last home game Saturday against California. It will be the last time six seniors will play in Tempe, including Bachynski, Marshall and senior forward Shaquielle McKissic.
It’s assumed it will be Carson’s last home game as a Sun Devil as well, but he said it’s not his night to celebrate.
“I’m just as happy to see those guys go,” Carson said. “J.B., all of the seniors who’ve been here and have been a big brother to me. Them having their last game here at Arizona State.”
Carson acknowledged his intention at the moment is to leave after the season, but he didn’t exactly close the door on possibly returning.
“If there was a time that I just say, ‘Oh, it’s time to come back,’ I have two more years of eligibility,” Carson said.
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