In its quest to play every Arkansas school this season, the ASU men’s basketball team returns home to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday.
The Sun Devils (4-1) have already played two schools from the state, and they hope for similar results against the Golden Lions (1-3). ASU defeated Central Arkansas in the season opener and beat Arkansas in the Las Vegas Invitational last week.
Redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson and senior wing Carrick Felix had a solid two days in Vegas. They both made the all-tournament team as the Sun Devils lost to No. 14 Creighton in the finals. Carson posted 30 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals. Felix had 17 points and five rebounds.
“I was really proud of the resiliency the guys showed in the second game,” coach Herb Sendek said. “They really clawed back and got to six points on a number of occasions and just didn’t get a bucket or the stop that we needed to get it any closer than that.”
The tournament was a good test to see where this team stands after five games and what aspects ASU needs to improve at. Sendek said ASU must address its offensive execution and transition defense. He also said ASU gets about 67 percent of its defensive rebounds back, but he wants that number around 72 percent. The Sun Devils have had the frontcourt size advantage in a few games this season yet hold a +0.2 rebounding edge over their opponents.
“On Monday in practice, it was really important for us to look in the mirror, take inventory and focus on ourselves coming off four games in seven days,” Sendek said. “That’s the one thing playing in a tournament like that this early in the season, it really diminishes your practice time. There’s not a lot of time to clean things up even if you see them right in front of your face.”
While the team is a work in progress, Carson certainly made the adjustment to Division I play pretty quick. He’s had three-straight 20-point games and could arguably be the best point guard in the Pac-12. He averages 21 points a game, which is not only a team high, but he’s also the top-scoring freshman in the country. Carson said he’s exceeded his expectations through five games.
“I was just trying to come out there and just be comfortable and play my role, but I think I definitely got a lot more confidence out of playing more games,” Carson said.
Carson could go off Wednesday against an Arkansas Pine-Bluff squad that’s allowed 71 points a game this season. The Golden Lions will be rested since they haven’t played a game in a week. They were held to 14 points in the first half and lost to San Diego State 79-43 last week.
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