Carrick Felix was superior in the Sun Devils' 72-62 win over Oregon State - Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
The Arizona State basketball team struggled in the early going against Oregon State, but captain Carrick Felix's 18-point and 14-rebound performance helped the Sun Devils weather the storm in Corvallis.
If Carrick Felix's performances last week merited a Pac-12 Player of the Week award, then his outing against Oregon State deserves a game MVP to go along with his recent achievements. The Sun Devil captain brought effort, hustle, and intensity to the floor in Corvallis and Arizona State rode his 18-point night to a 72-62 victory over the Oregon State Beavers.
Felix overcame a rough start to to help lead his team to its first road win in 2013. The normally poised forward turned the ball over on the first Arizona State possession, picked up a foul on the other end of the floor, and missed a jumper before he settled in for another fine evening.
The Sun Devils' early struggles allowed the Beavers to race out to a 26-18 advantage, but this Arizona State squad has routinely proven that no deficit is too daunting, especially in the first half of a game. After trailing Colorado 17-4 in the first few minutes on Sunday, the Sun Devils overcame the Buffaloes in the second half before rallying for a win.
On Thursday night, Beavers' forward Devon Collier gave the Sun Devils fits with his muscular 6-foot-8 inch frame, and it took awhile for the Arizona State defense to adjust. The junior keyed an 11-1 run for Oregon State midway through the first half, but the Beavers' focus on interior play left them exposed in transition.
The fleet-footed Jahii Carson took advantage of the Beavers on the fast break and the point guard scored five of his game-high 20 points in a critical sequence late in the first half. Trailing by three points with just over three minutes to play before the break, Carson drove for a layup to pull Arizona State within one and dished to Jonathan Gilling for a three-pointer on the next possession to give the Sun Devils a lead they would never relinquish.
After halftime, Arizona State opened up a 15-point lead on the Beavers behind perimeter baskets from Evan Gordon and Jonathan Gilling and a few monster dunks from Carrick Felix. Despite the big lead, the Sun Devils were troubled by the balanced attack from Oregon State throughout the second half.
Behind 20 points off the bench including eight from forward Olaf Schaftenaar, the Beavers made Carrick Felix and company buckle down for the entire 40 minutes. After two Devon Collier free throws brought the Beavers within four points with under five minutes to play, the stout Sun Devil defense took over.
The Beavers did not make a field goal from the 6:59 mark on until reserve guard Michael Moyer hit a consolation three-pointer with just 20 seconds left on the clock.
The Sun Devils outrebounded the Beavers 45-30 and rode a physical style of play to an important rode victory. This team is beginning to change the fortunes of Arizona State basketball as a whole, and a hiccup like a loss in Corvallis could have been devastating for the Sun Devils' confidence.
Instead of letting another night of poor free throw shooting (8-18) and a lack of bench support limit their performance, Coach Herb Sendek's boys proved they could go out and win on the road in conference play.
With each passing game, Carrick Felix looks to have developed a new way to make an opponent's jaw drop. If the Sun Devils continue their winning ways, the entire team may soon be doing the same thing.