TEMPE, Ariz. — Jahii Carson has played his final home game for Arizona State. Coach Herb Sendek ended any latent speculation on that after the Sun Devils rolled past California 78-60 on Saturday.
“He’s not coming back,” Sendek said. No qualifier was added. This season is it — period.
The numbers weren’t spectacular for the prolific sophomore playmaker — nine points and four assists. But he had just one turnover and engineered one of the best games of the season for the Sun Devils (21-8, 10-6), who moved alone into third place in the Pac-12 standings, a half-game ahead of Stanford, which plays at No. 3 Arizona on Sunday.
Jermaine Marshall scored 22 points, Jonathan Gilling matched his season-high with 15 and Arizona State pulled away in the second half in the Sun Devils’ final home game of the season.
Carson is expected by everyone, including Sendek, to declare for the NBA draft after this season.
Asked if it was his last home game in college, Carson said, “Yeah, for the most part.”
Carson thought about coming out last season, when he was Pac-12 co-freshman of the year, but he came back for one more season, aiming to help Arizona State get into the NCAA tournament, something that seemed ever more probable after Saturday’s victory.
“He had a brilliant two years here in Wells Fargo (Arena),” Sendek said. “If you recall, he started with such expectations, almost mythological expectations.”
Sendek said he was concerned that Carson could never meet those expectations.
“But sure enough,” the coach said, “the bigger the stage, the brighter the lights, he handled it all with the poise and grace that was really impressive.”
Carson didn’t want to talk about it being his final home game, deflecting attention to the team’s seniors.
“I just want to go out and win basketball games,” Carson said, “give these guys all the credit. It’s their last games here. Their family was here. It was very emotional for them, so I just tried to give all the attention to them.”
Justin Cobbs scored 15, Jordan Mathews 14 and David Kravish 12 for Cal (18-11, 9-7) at the end of a rough trip to the desert.
The Bears were blown out at No. 3 Arizona Wednesday night 87-59 and have lost three of four overall.
The Sun Devils finished 8-1 at home in Pac-10/Pac-12 play for just the third time in 36 seasons. They last did it in 1980-81 with a team that featured Byron Scott, Alton Lister and Fat Lever. Arizona State won eight straight Pac-12 home games after losing its opener to Washington. The Sun Devils finished 16-1 at home overall.
Arizona State trailed through much of the first half but never by more than six points.
After Cobs’ 3-pointer put the Bears ahead 22-18, the Sun Devils outscored Cal 11-2 the final 5:39 of the half.
Carson hit a 16-footer with 2:29 to go, then Gilling capped the run with a 3-pointer from the corner, on a pass from Shaquielle McKissic, to put Arizona State up 29-24 at the break.
Cobb made two free throws to start the second half and cut the lead to 29-26, but Cal got no closer. Jordan Bachynski and Gilling scored four apiece and Carson made a lightning driving layup in a 10-0 spurt that gave Arizona State a 44-30 lead with 14:47 to play.
The lead reached 59-43 after McKissic’s thunderous baseline dunk for a three-point play, followed by Gilling’s fastbreak layup off a turnover with 10:02 to play. Arizona State led by as many as 20.
“Right toward the end of the first half we had about three breakdowns where a guy was standing and his guy moved and he didn’t move, and they hit three 3s,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “That gave them a little momentum and then we just carried it over into the second half. We lost vision time and time again of open shooters to their credit they knock down shots. … There was a point in time they were 13 for 15 from the floor. They were shooting 83 percent.”
Before the game, the Sun Devils honored the six seniors on the squad — Bachynski, Marshall, McKissic, Richie Evans, Jarett Upchurch and Dave Whitmore.
Cal has lost three of four by scores of 86-66 to UCLA, 87-59 to Arizona and 78-60 to Arizona State.