High fives and celebrations are the norm for Arizona State these days. - USA TODAY Sports
The Sun Devils travel to Pullman this weekend to take on a Cougars team that is playing its best basketball of the season right now. Arizona State proved its 16-4 record is no joke as wins over USC and UCLA solidified the maroon and gold as a Pac-12 contender.
As the clock ticked away at the end of Saturday's game, UCLA freshman Jordan Adams made a fateful decision. With less than six seconds standing between the Sun Devils and an 18-point victory over the Bruins, Adams stripped the ball from Evan Gordon and charged down the court.
The turnover was meaningless, and so were the points that Adams attempted to score. Adams acted out of frustration, as he couldn't help but realize that his Bruins were pummeled in a game they were expected to win.
Even though Adams' layup wouldn't have changed the outcome of the game, that didn't stop Sun Devil captain Carrick Felix from playing to the final whistle as well. As Adams dashed in for a layup, the senior forward sprinted toward the basket and leaped high in the air. Felix pinned Adams' shot against the backboard, and denied the bucket as time expired.
Felix's block made an emphatic statement that put the Pac-12 on notice. Every time a team steps on the court against the Sun Devils, that team better come to play. Felix and company will scratch and claw and fight until victory is secured.
This week, the Sun Devils take their act on the road, as they head northwest to face off against Washington State and Washington. If the Cougars and Huskies can take anything away from Felix's last-second block of Jordan Adams, they should know that Arizona State will play a relentless 40 minutes of basketball. Unlike Jordan Adams, the Washington schools hope to avoid finding that out the hard way.
State of the Sun Devils: With an overtime victory over the USC Trojans and an 18-point demolition of the UCLA Bruins, the Arizona State basketball team is riding high. The Sun Devils bumped their record to 16-4 with two impressive victories over the weekend, and they look to be firing on all cylinders.
On Thursday night, Evan Gordon poured in a game-high 28 points and Jahii Carson added 21 to record his ninth 20-point outing of the season. On Saturday afternoon, Carrick Felix finished with 23 points and 11 boards while center Jordan Bachynski set career-highs with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Though the Sun Devils don't have nearly the depth of most of their opponents, each of the five starters is capable of putting together a game-changing performance. Even on a poor day from the field, forward Jonathan Gilling still managed to grab 11 rebounds and dish out eight assist against the Bruins.
With five certain threats who can beat their opponents on any given night, the Sun Devils are developing into a force to be reckoned with.
State of the Cougars: The Cougars managed their best weekend of conference play thus far with a hard-fought and well-earned split against the Oregon schools. Last Wednesday, Washington State gave the Oregon Ducks everything they could handle en route to a 68-61 loss in Eugene.
On Saturday, the Cougars rebounded with their second win in Pac-12 play by narrowly defeating Oregon State by a score of 71-68. Up until recently, the Cougars have had to rely on 6-foot-10 forward Brock Motum for most of their scoring, but senior guard Mike Ladd had a coming out party on the swing through Oregon.
Ladd tallied 19 points and five assists against the Ducks, and set a career-high with 23 points against the Beavers. Ladd's recent play suggests that he'll be a thorn in the side of Arizona State, as the Sun Devils have difficulty containing volume scorers at the guard position.
Though the Cougars are just 11-9 overall and 2-5 in conference play, opposing teams can't sleep on them in Pullman where they've compiled an 8-3 record. With a combination of solid defense (59.5 points allowed per game) and two starters playing excellent basketball, the Cougars could pose challenges for Arizona State.
Matchup to Watch
Carrick Felix (Forward) and Brock Motum (Forward)
Each player is a do-it-all senior for their respective team and both have come into the spotlight during their senior seasons. If the Cougars were having any type of success in Pac-12 play, Motum's name would stand alongside Felix's in contention for conference player of the year.
Motum averages 18.9 points per game and 6.6 rebounds while Felix drops in 15.1 points and 8.2 rebounds each contest. Motum has four inches of a height advantage on the wing from Goodyear, but that won't stop Coach Herb Sendek from having Felix guard Motum.
The Sun Devils were buffered by an exceptional outing from Jordan Bachysnki against UCLA, and they'll need him to outplay D.J. Shelton so Felix can focus solely on Motum. This is one of the most underrated matchups of the year, and anyone who tunes in will be riveted by the heart and passion that Felix and Motum play with.