Jahii Carson put the Arizona State basketball team on his back in Las Vegas on Tuesday night. The Sun Devils topped the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 86-80 and Carson finished the game with 40 points. His previous high in points was 34 in an overtime game with Stanford last season in the Pac-12 tournament.
ASU had a rough night shooting apart from Carson, but they will take its 4-0 record and look to improve with more stiff competition coming to Tempe in the coming week.
The Rebels dominated the Sun Devils in the first half off the boards and it led to a four-point deficit for ASU leading into the break. UNLV Junior Forward Roscoe Smith dominated the Devils inside at times, leading his team with 16 defensive rebounds. Before the game, Herb Sendek acknowledged that the Rebels were a good rebounding team but his team could do little about it in the first half.
The Sun Devils were lucky to face off with a team that may have even more problems shooting from the foul line than they do. The Rebels are shooting 50 percent from the line as a team and made 15-29 against ASU. The Sun Devils were just slightly better percentage-wise in that area, making 11-20 from the line.
Apart from Carson’s stellar night, Jermaine Marshall had his first 20 point game as a Sun Devil. Jordan Bachynski, after struggling a bit in the first half, also ended up having a solid outing. The senior center finished with a double-double (17 points, 15 rebounds).
A lowlight for ASU offensively was certainly Jonathan Gilling, one of the team’s best shooters from three-point range. Gilling just couldn’t find his shot on Tuesday night; he finished 0-9 from the field (0-7 from beyond the arc) despite getting some wide-open looks. His only point came from the free point line. Gilling was put on the bench at times for Sai Tummala, who did not do any better with his opportunities.
All that said, Tuesday night was all Jahii. When it looked as if the contest was getting out of hand for ASU, Carson made a couple of clutch three-point shots to keep his team in the game. In the final 10 minutes, UNLV just had no answer for the sophomore from Mesa. He did anything and everything to help his team win. Whether driving the lane to make highlight reel plays, or finding the open man for the shot (Carson also had a team-leading seven assists), Carson gave everything he had.
This is a solid road win for the Sun Devils in a hostile environment. The Thomas & Mack Center was rocking all night long, surprising for a Tuesday night. The Rebels played with energy for most of the game. ASU is going to have to win games like this on the road to make it to the national tournament this season.
There are more measuring stick games to come for the Sun Devils. The team returns to Tempe for a battle with Bradley on Friday. The Braves are coming off an 81-55 loss to Illinois. The marquee match-up, however, comes next Monday when the 25th ranked Marquette Golden Eagles (2-1) visit Wells Fargo Arena. ASU then faces off with #23 Creighton in the Wooden Legacy Tournament in Fullerton, California.
These games are going to go a long way to revealing what kind of team the Sun Devils are, and how far they can really go this season. It’s going to be intriguing to watch them battle some very good opponents in the coming week.