Pac-12 tournament: Sun Devil Carson's career day too much for Cardinal to overcome

2013-03-13T22:00:00Z Pac-12 tournament: Sun Devil Carson's career day too much for Cardinal to overcomeBy Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 13, 2013 10:00 pm  • 

LAS VEGAS — Stanford had played 39 minutes, 22 seconds Wednesday without attempting a single free throw, as poor a job in foul enticement since someone first painted a stripe 15 feet from the basket.

Then, at the worst possible time for Arizona State — with the Sun Devils up four with 38 seconds to play — the Cardinal got a whistle.

After crossing over his dribble to the right, Aaron Bright jumped and made a three-pointer while being fouled by Jonathan Gilling. He swished his free-throw attempt, tied the game and eventually forced overtime.

This would seem to be the point where Stanford, buoyed by the momentum of an improbable comeback the in Pac-12 Tournament opener, would rally for an overtime win.

Only the Cardinal didn’t.

Jahii Carson made a case for Best Freshman on the Planet, scoring five of his 34 points in overtime, and the Sun Devils won, 89-88.

“There aren’t that many Jahii Carsons in this country,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said.

Carson made 14-of-22 field-goal attempts, falling one point short of the ASU freshman record, set in 1992, against the Arizona Wildcats, by Mario Bennett.

“I just try to come up big on big stages,” the freshman said.

ASU coach Herb Sendek called it “extremely rare — not only for a freshman, but anybody,” to do what Carson did Wednesday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

His 34 points were the highest total for any Pac-12 player this year, and the most ever by a Pac-12 freshman in the conference tournament.

“For his first-ever Pac-12 Tournament, I thought the young man was terrific,” Dawkins said.

The Mesa native said he woke up “with positive energy” after receiving texts from his family and ASU alums.

“Today I was just in the zone,” he said. “When I’m the zone, I keep attacking …

“Good things happen when you’re in a good mental state and you attack the defense.”

The Sun Devils (21-11) went to a small lineup early, eschewing 7-foot-2 shot blocker Jordan Bachynski for guard Evan Gordon.

Gordon played 38 minutes, Bachysnki eight.

ASU wing Carrick Felix, a small forward, was tasked with guarding first-team all-conference power forward Dwight Powell, despite giving up four inches.

“He knows how to use his body,” Powell said, “and, offensively, take advantage of his strength.”

The Sun Devils double-teamed Powell, who still finished with 23 points on 11-of-18 shooting, throughout the second half.

Sendek compared him to former UA forward Derrick Williams: “Who do you guard him with?” the coach wondered aloud.

Bright led Stanford in scoring, making half his 12 three-point attempts and finishing with 27 points.

He engineered the three-point barrage that turned into an impossible rally at the end of regulation.

ASU led by eight with 1:10 to play when Bright made a three to cut it to five. After Gordon missed the front half of a one-and-one free throw, Josh Huestis drained a three to trim the lead to two.

Two Gilling free throws later, ASU led by four when Bright made his three-pointer while getting fouled.

“That was a huge shot,” Powell said. “Gave us some momentum going into overtime.”

Bright called getting to the foul line “a big part of winning,” and said Stanford (18-14) was too passive, finishing with one attempt.

“I thought in the first half we settled for jump shots,” he said, “rather than just attacking.”

Felix, who scored 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting, said the Sun Devils “definitely knew just to stay composed” when overtime began.

Stanford took the first lead of overtime on a Powell jumper, but Carson countered with a three-pointer.

ASU would never trail again.

“Very proud of our guys, how they bounced back in overtime,” Sendek said.

For Arizona State’s, and Carson’s, next trick: top-seeded UCLA today at noon.

“We come out with a victory,” Carson said, “if we come out with the same mentality we had today.”

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at 573-4145 or pfinley@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @patrickfinley

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