Dec. 5, 2012
By Jordan Parry, ASU Media Relations Student Intern
Picking up where it left off Saturday night against Sacramento State, the Arizona State men's basketball team came out on fire from the field. Unlike against Sacramento State, though, Hartford also came out hitting shots, putting pressure on the home team early and often to take advantage of their home court presence. ASU lived up to the challenge, improving their record to 7-1 as they took down Hartford 71-63 Wednesday night from Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
The first basket of the game came as a good sign for the Sun Devils, as freshman Jahii Carson, who had struggled in his last couple of games with an illness, hit his first jumper from the baseline, beginning what would be an impressive night for the first-year player. Carson, who shot 3-6 from the field against Sacramento State with only 12 points, began the game 3-3. He had 11 points in the first half on 5-6 shooting, including one three-pointer and two assists, but was 0-3 from the free throw line.
Much like Carson, his fellow-teammates also started the game streaking, hitting their first five shots from the field. However, their ability to put the ball in the basket early was overshadowed by Hartford's ability to hit from deep. The Hawks' first three baskets of the game came on three-point attempts, putting the score at 10-9 before ASU missed their first basket.
Hartford continued their three-point shooting and at an effective rate. In the first 10 minutes of play they were 5-9 from beyond the arc, spoiling ASU's 73 percent shooting on 8-11 from the field during that period to open the game. At 10 minutes in the Hawks held a 24-19 lead.
The Sun Devils battled back, though, going on a 14-4 run and regaining the lead thanks to a few key buckets from Carson. At the half ASU headed to the locker room with a 36-35 lead.
ASU shot 63 percent in the first half on 15-24 shooting, while Hartford shot 50 percent on 13-26 shooting, but they stayed close by going 6-16 from three over the first 20 minutes of play. Arizona State had 16 points in the paint, but left points on the board by shooting only 2-9 from the free throw line.
Jordan Bachynski was perfect on the half with six points on 3-3 shooting. Hartford's Nate Sikma made three three-pointers in the half and led all scorers at that point with 13 points. ASU turned the ball over only six times in the half--four times in the first nine minutes, but only twice in the final 11 minutes.
Sikma hit a short jumper which allowed the Hawks to take the lead at 37-36 to start the second half, but Carson responded with an acrobatic layup of his own at the other end to regain the lead. Jonathan Gilling hit a three from the left corner on the next Sun Devil possession, but was countered by another three from Sikma, as the beginning of the second half saw a plethora of exchanged baskets and lead changes before ASU's Coach Sendek was forced to call a timeout with 14:50 to go with his team down 47-43.
Arizona State came out of their timeout by turning the ball over, but then forced a turnover of its own which led to a highflying two-handed dunk by Carrick Felix, electrifying the home crowd. Carson followed Felix with a steal of his own and a reverse layup after bringing the ball behind his back, putting on a display for the crowd who has been waiting to see his explosiveness in person. This gave the Sun Devils a 48-47 lead.
Carson wasn't just doing it with his shooting touch, either, as he found fellow-freshman Eric Jacobsen on a beautiful bullet pass through the lane for his sixth assist of the game, this one leading to a layup plus the foul. Carson finished the game with six assists.
Evan Gordon, who had a career-high 29 points in the win against Sacramento State, hit his third three of the game with 6:25 to go which extended the Sun Devil lead to 60-54 and also brought the crowd to its feet, getting the fans cheering louder than at any point this season.
The Hawks struggled to deal with the hostile atmosphere, missing their next few shots, allowing the Devils to extend their lead to 10 at 64-54 off of a Carson running jumper off the glass followed by a Jacobsen layup. Jacobsen had a season high 16 points on 5-6 shooting to go along with his six rebounds (four offensive), playing 20 significant minutes, many of those coming down the stretch while he hit pivotal shots to keep the lead intact.
"Eric has given us great minutes," Coach Sendek said. "I'm really impressed with his contributions."
To seal the game the ball stayed in the hands of Carson, who rightfully finished the deal with another eye-opening layup with 1:49 to play. In his last two previous games Carson totaled a combined 21 points, but tonight the freshman got back to his scoring ways, going for 20 points, almost outdoing his performances from his last two appearances combined.
Felix had another extremely effective game for ASU, finishing with 11 points while grabbing 11 rebounds for his second-straight double-double. Gordon had 12 points.
For Hartford, Sikma finished with 26 points in 38 minutes. Only five players scored for the Hawks.
The Sun Devils shot the ball well from the floor all night, finishing at 56 percent on 27-48 shooting, compared to Hartford's 39 percent on 22-57 shooting. The Hawks went 12-29 from three, shooting 13 more three-point attempts than Arizona State. ASU forced 11 turnovers while only committing 10. The Sun Devils had 32 points in the paint to Hartford's eight, a decisive statistic in this close game.
ASU will continue their six-game home stand Saturday afternoon with their noontime tilt against Cal State Northridge. The Sun Devils improved to 7-1 while the Hartford Hawks dropped to 4-4. Last season it took ASU until Jan. 28 to win its seventh game, almost two months longer than it took this year's team.