Arizona State basketball faced down adversity — and won — in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
The ninth-seeded Sun Devils edged No. 8 seed Stanford 89-88 in overtime on Wednesday. The win kept ASU’s slim NCAA Tourney hopes alive and earned them a berth against UCLA in the quarterfinals this afternoon at the MGM Garden Arena.
Credit yesterday’s dramatic victory to ASU point guard Jahii Carson. The talented freshman scored 34 points and sparked a Sun Devil attack that connected on 11-of-22 attempts from three-point range, while posting a 48.5 percent mark from the field overall. Carson’s point total was the fifth highest in Pac-12 tournament history — and the most by any freshman.
Arizona State (21-11, 9-9 Pac-12) broke a four-game losing streak in its Las Vegas debut. More importantly, it reversed a trend of one-and-done outings in Pac-12 Tournament openers.
ASU’s small lineup proved to be an effective antidote for the Cardinal defense. On top of Carson’s record-shattering performance, senior wing Carrick Felix scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Junior guard Evan Gordon produced 16 points, including five free throws in overtime. Forward Jonathan Gilling added 14 points from the center position. 7-foot-2 Jordan Bachynski played just eight minutes after averaging almost 28 during the season.
For Stanford, junior guard Aaron Bright scored 27 points and junior forward Dwight Powell had 23 points and nine rebounds.
The ASU-UCLA matchup offers plenty of intrigue. The Sun Devils split with the Bruins during the regular season, most recently falling 79-74 in overtime in Los Angeles. UCLA’s talented front line dominated that contest, with Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams each scoring more than 20 points. In the season’s earlier meeting in Tempe, the Sun Devils upended the Bruins 78-60 thanks to a career night (22 points and 15 rebounds) by Bachynski.
Carson believes UCLA will a tough opponent for ASU, but likes his team’s chances to advance in tournament competition. “They (the Bruins) have a lot of strong weapons. But if we come out with the same mentality we did today, the same energy, the same toughness, I think we can control the game and control the tempo,” he said.
Carson added, “I love to perform on big stages. This is the biggest stage I get to play on right now.”