Though nearly one third of the season has passed for the Arizona State basketball team, the Sun Devils waited until Saturday afternoon to play their first true road game of the season.
Jahii Carson and company entered their matinee affair against the Red Raiders of Texas Tech with a record of 9-2, but the Sun Devils have played just two games away from the friendly confines of Wells Fargo Arena. While this was not the first time the team has traveled this season, their only other road trip came as part of the Las Vegas Invitational in which they played Arkansas and Creighton at a neutral sight.
In their first game in a decidedly difficult atmosphere, the Sun Devils rose to the occasion with a resounding 77-62 victory.
Coach Herb Sendek had five days to prepare his team for the trip to Texas Tech, and the Sun Devils looked as fresh as they have all season in the first half against the Red Raiders.
Jonathan Gilling was the primary beneficiary of the layoff as the forward hit five of his career high six 3-pointers in the first half. Gilling nailed three of his treys within the first five minutes of play as he helped the Sun Devils jump out to an early 27-12 lead.
After a red-hot start from the field, the Sun Devils were bound to cool off and they did. The Red Raiders made a valiant comeback effort as Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett (11 points) scored his team's final six points of the half to pull the game within six points.
The Sun Devils flirted with danger throughout the first few minutes of the second half as Jordan Tolbert (10 points) helped narrow the deficit to four points, but Jahii Carson took over.
The Arizona State freshman has been the focal point of the Sun Devils' second half offense this season, and the electric point guard did not disappoint as he scored 16 of his 18 points after the break.
Carson kept the offense in rhythm all afternoon as he dished out eight assists and collected two steals and two rebounds as well.
The Sun Devils have come to rely on their budding superstar in crunch time, and today's play is yet another example of why he inspires such great hope in this Arizona State squad.
When the Red Raiders cut the lead to within seven points with seven minutes left to play, Carson responded with the next 10 points of the game to give the Sun Devils a comfortable lead that they would hang onto the rest of the way.
Other Sun Devils that helped contribute to the winning effort include Carrick Felix (13 points), Evan Gordon (12 points), and Chris Colvin (8 points). Fortunately for Arizona State, their three pointers fell all afternoon as they shot 14-27 from beyond the arc. The Sun Devils needed the superior effort from the perimeter as the Red Raiders limited 7-2 center Jordan Bachynski to just 4 points on 2-5 shooting.
With the victory, the Sun Devils improve their record to 10-2 on the season and match their win total from a year ago. More importantly, Arizona State picked up its second victory over a power conference team in just the team's fourth try. Wins over teams like Hartford and Dartmouth pad the record, but games against Arkansas and Texas Tech will impress the NCAA selection committee.
Though the Sun Devils lost a tough matchup to DePaul last week, the team proved its determination and won a difficult game on the road against a Texas Tech program that has had success over the years.
Arizona State returns to action at home on December 29th against Coppin State.