ASU grinds out home victory

There were no signs of the finals week blues Saturday afternoon for the Arizona State men's basketball team as they wrapped up a six-game home stance with a win over the Dartmouth Big Green (2-7), 61-42, improving to 9-2 on the season and 8-1 at home.

If you were hoping for an offensive blow out win for ASU, this game would disappoint. ASU scoring was held to a season low 61 points, yet senior Carrick Felix and freshman guard Jahii Carson found multiple ways to shine beyond that figure.

Felix was the proverbial stat sheet filler against the Big Green, accumulating his third career double-double with 13 points, a career-high 15 boards, five blocks, four steals, and two assists just to be well-rounded.

Head Coach Herb Sendek had more than a plethora of positive words in the postgame debrief session for the senior guard saying his leadership goes beyond the stat sheet and showing a multitude of ways to impact the game.

"Once again I thought Carrick's performance was tremendous," Sendek commented. "He is a stat sheet stuffer, am I right? I was really pleased with the way he played today. I think he has matured so much. He has already demonstrated this season that he can not shoot his best, but still greatly impact the game. He's already demonstrated that he can weather foul trouble; stay connected, and still come back and really impacts the game. He's playing both ends of the floor.

"He has done so much for our team beyond even the stat sheet. His leadership is just exemplary. His defense has been outstanding. Night in, night out, he's guarding the other team's best player; whether it's a bigger guy like McDermott or whether it's a guard. His defensive versatility has been tremendous. We've asked him to do a great deal and he's delivered."

"Good things happen to good people," Sendek continued to add about the senior forward, "and because of his attitude and his approach, and his caring of his teammates; he's just so easy to cheer for. He's just so easy to want to do well."

Carson continued to bring his element of energy to the court for the Sun Devils, adding 18 points, six assists, and four steals to his ever-impressive freshman season.

11 games into the season, the former Mesa High School standout is averaging a team high 17.9 points, with 58 assists thus far.

"I thought Jahii was really good on the ball." Coach Sendek remarked. "It was probably his best overall effort guarding the ball upfront through the course of the game."

ASU began the afternoon on a high note, going on a 7-0 run against the Big Green fueled by center Jordan Bachynski, scoring five of his nine total points in the first two minutes.

Though Big Green would not steal the lead from the Sun Devils, they capitalized on the errors that have been haunting this team throughout the season.

After the fifth turnover of the first half at the 14:08, Dartmouth was put within 2 (11-9), prompting Coach Sendek to call a much-needed timeout in hopes of recovery. Big Green responded with a Gabas Maldunas layup, tying it up at 11-11.

Jon Gilling then began the regrouping for the Sun Devils with a much needed three, starting the 7-0 run against the Big Green. Dartmouth would fail to score until the 5:20 mark, putting the Sun Devils up 25-14.

The largest lead for the Sun Devils would not come until under the one-minute mark in the second half, an issue that has been of concern for the Sun Devils that has gave opposing teams the opportunity to hang around in the game.

"I think it's a concern, because we always want to be ready with confidence." Felix stated about letting teams hang in games. "I think we need to be more aware that we can't start off slow, and not let the other team punch us first. They were out there grinding us on their offense, and they knew what they wanted to do. So that's when we have to come through, and have great defense."

"We just didn't give ourselves a lot of breathing room this afternoon" Coach Sendek added.

Overall, ASU showed its continued struggle from shooting beyond the arch (2-14) with the two made attempts from Gilling and Evan Gordon, who ended the game with 7 points.

"We can't get any more open," Coach Sendek added about the long-range game. "It's just not physically possible. All of a sudden if you make two of those, the whole deal has a new feel."

ASU also showed signs of struggle at the free throw line, converting only 53.8 percent (7-13), and a slight improvement from their 42.1 percent (8-19) free throw shooting in Wednesday's 78-61 loss to DePaul.

"I don't care who you're playing," Sendek noted, "if you add up our last two games from three, and what we have shot at the free throw line, you better be really good on defense."

Case in point, ASU held the Big Green to 32.7 percent from the field, with players such as Felix and Carson generating steals for ASU and creating 12 points off such turnovers.

"I think we did a pretty good job at making them play our speed, with the fast tempo." Carson added. "Getting them tired, out of that offensive, and stop looking for three's. They started getting fatigued; getting easy buckets, and going to the basket were we have shoot blockers and guys who can make plays on the defensive end. That's what got our energy going, when they started taking fatigued shots, and that's what got us ways baskets on the fast break in."

Next up for ASU, is a meeting with Texas Tech a Noon next Saturday, marking the team's first true road game of the season.

"I think it's going to be another test for us." Carson remarked. "If we go on the road and get a win against Texas Tech, I think it'll give us a nice energy boost coming in to the game back here at home and then back into conference. If we beat Texas Tech it will be a confidence booster.

"I'm trying to get mentally focused, just for every game period. Just positive energy, which my teammates bring. Getting my body ready, being well rested, and staying mentally focused is key. I'm going to go out there and play the best I can."

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