TEMPE - Jahii Carson has known Carrick Felix for eight years or so, dating to when they were kids playing in Phoenix.
"I haven't seen him in this state," Carson said.
That state, in advance of Saturday's rivalry game against the Arizona Wildcats: smothering, focused, intense.
"Emotions are going to be in the air," said Felix, a two-time Pac-12 Player of the Week this year. "I can't control myself sometimes during this game. I don't think half the players can.
"It can also be a good emotion."
Emotion is a good word to describe the senior wing from Millennium High School in Goodyear.
He's averaging 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds over the past dozen games and has scored in double-figures in 16 straight. In the Pac-12, only Washington State star Brock Motum can claim such a streak.
Felix ranks sixth in the conference in field goal percentage but is the highest-ranked wing. The five players above him have combined to try 10 three-pointers; Felix has attempted 61.
But ask others to describe Felix, and they come back to his defense.
"A great energy," coach Herb Sendek said. "It's priceless."
At Oregon on Sunday, Felix held Ducks senior E.J. Singler to 1-of-9 shooting, his worst shooting percentage day since the last game of his freshman year.
"I know there's going to be nights when my shot's not gonna fall," Felix said Tuesday at Wells Fargo Arena. "So, definitely, defense is something I take pride in.
"Just because it's something you can make sure each and every game that you're going 100 percent."
Felix has made "tremendous strides" in turning himself from a good defender to a great one, Sendek said. The coach guessed there wasn't "a guy that's playing better defense anywhere."
One reason is ASU's switch to man-to-man defense, which allows the Sun Devils to utilize Felix and Carson's athleticism while 7-foot-2-inch center Jordan Bachynski intimidates opponents as one the nation's best shot-blockers.
The other is simple desire.
"There's the physical part, which Carrick clearly has," Sendek said. "Then there's the mental part, which has a couple components.
"One is understanding, know-how, instincts, being in the right place at the right time, going through the scouting report so you know important details and coverage.
"The other mental part is just making it important, understanding that this is connected to winning and losing.
"The third part is the mental toughness part, when you're playing a lot of minutes, and it'd be easy to maybe take a breather, and you still find a way to battle through that screen and make a play."
The Sun Devils allow 63.5 points per game, down from 66.3 last year.
"Carrick brings all the energy," Carson said. "And once he brings it all, I think everybody takes bits and pieces of energy and puts it on themselves."
Felix, who is ninth in the league with 33.2 minutes per game, will guard UA wing Solomon Hill, whom Sendek called "undeniably one of the best players in college basketball."
Guarding Hill "definitely fires me up," Felix said.
"Coming to ASU (from College of Southern Idaho in 2010), knowing I was going to be playing against pros and big-time players, I took it upon myself to definitely lock in and take ownership," he said.
He'll study Hill all week, and then get his chance.
"I have a tremendous opportunity ahead of me this Saturday," Felix said.
• Sendek said the Sun Devils' upset of the Arizona Wildcats last March - a victory that forced the UA to have to try to win the Pac-12 tournament to make the Big Dance - has no bearing Saturday.
"Irrelevant," the coach said. "New team all together. New season. No more or less relevant than the games played two years ago, three years ago or in 1956.
"It's a new game, new team. So it would be a far reach to try to extrapolate any connection between that and this."
• The Wildcats have amazing depth, the coach said.
"They're not the kind of team that foul trouble or fatigue is going to weigh on, because they always have another guy at the scorer's table ready to check in," Sendek said. "And there's not much dropoff, if any."
• ASU freshman forward Kenny Martin practiced Monday for the first time since returning from illness.
On StarNet: Follow the Cats with Bruce Pascoe's blog at azstarnet.com/pascoe
• What: No. 7 Arizona at ASU
• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
• TV; radio: FSAZ; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM