TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils used a 41-16 run to open up a 25-point lead in the first half and cruised to an 83-68 win over the Detroit Titans in the first round of the NIT at Wells Fargo Arena.
Detroit’s Jason Calliste hit two free throws to tie the score at 4-4 early in the contest, but the Sun Devils then erupted for the next 14 points which included two three-pointers from reserve junior guard Evan Gordon.
To their credit, the Titans regrouped in the second half and got to within nine points when Doug Anderson threw down a dunk with 12:58 remaining.
Jahii Carson scored 22 points, grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds and handed out seven assists while senior Carrick Felix, possibly playing in his last game in Tempe, added 21 points and seven boards.
The third-seeded Sun Devils moved their record to 22-12 and will head to Waco, Texas to face second-seeded Baylor Friday night. The Bears crushed Long Beach State 112-66 in their tournament opener Wednesday.
The Sun Devils came out with a high energy level, and dominated play in the first half. In fact, ASU outrebounded Detroit 27-6 in the first half and held the Titans (20-13) to just 22.2 percent shooting before the break. If not for Detroit’s fine free throw shooting (15-for-15 in first half), the Devils would have waltzed to an even easier win.
ASU’s free throw shooting, which had been an Achilles heel all season long, was pretty stellar in its own right. The Devils hit on 85.7 percent (24-of-28) from the stripe in the win. Center Jordan Bachynski, a 57 percent foul shooter on the season, hit all eight of his attempts against Detroit on his way to a 16-point night.
Detroit came into the game ranked eighth in the nation in scoring at 78.1 points per game, but ASU’s defense held the Titans ten under their season average.
ASU was sloppy with the basketball. The Sun Devils committed a season-high 24 turnovers that led to 27 Detroit points. Their previous high was 18, which occurred twice — against Creighton and Arkansas-Pine Bluff in consecutive games in November.
The Devils also committed 22 fouls, which helped Detroit live at the free throw line. The Titans hit 26-of-27 free tosses on the night.
He Said It:
“I didn’t even know. Well, dang! How many,” asked Carson when notified he broke James Harden’s ASU freshman record for most 20-point games in a season with 17. “Wow, I’m speechless about it. I don’t try to go out there and get points, I just try to go out there and attack the basket.”
• In their last three games, ASU is shooting a very respectable 82 percent (55-of-67) from the free throw line. “We started practicing them,” ASU head coach Herb Sendek joked after the game. “We didn’t think it was important to practice all year and we started. And now what we’re gonna do the next chance we have to practice is we’re gonna work on our free throw shooting defense, because they were 26-out of-27.”
• Carson’s double-double was the first of his Sun Devil career.
• In the late stages of the game, the student section was chanting for Sendek to put senior walk-on Joey Hormes in the game. Sendek applauded the student section in his postgame presser, but didn’t put Hormes in. The Phoenix Valley Christian High product has played in only one game this season — a one-minute stint against Creighton in November.
The Sun Devils play Baylor Friday night in Waco in a second round NIT matchup. Tip-off is 7:00 CST, 5:00 in Phoenix.