Senior Carrick Felix had 23 points and 11 rebounds in the Sun Devil victory. - USA TODAY Sports
Few expected the Sun Devil basketball team to contend for an NCAA tournament berth, but the Sun Devils hit a major milestone on Wednesday night in their quest to go dancing into March.
Out of great silence comes great basketball.
The Sun Devil basketball team notched its 20th victory of the season in a 69-57 win over Washington State after capitalizing on a uniquely orchestrated burst of energy late in the first half.
Arizona State got off to a sluggish start, but captain Carrick Felix (23 points) nailed a defining 3-pointer with 10:09 left in the first half to tie the score at 14.
When the senior forward scored from the left wing, the Sun Devils eclipsed the magic number for the Arizona State student section which erupted in delight.
On James Harden Beard Night at Wells Fargo Arena, the fans decided to remain silent until the home team notched its 13th point of the game in a tribute to the former Sun Devil great and current NBA superstar.
Whether it was the sudden outburst from the crowd or the efficient play of point guard Jahii Carson (21 points) that ignited the Sun Devils, everything began to go their way.
Felix's 3-pointer started a 25-8 run that propelled the maroon and gold to a 36-22 halftime advantage.
"I thought our team really played unselfishly on offense," Coach Herb Sendek said. "The ball was going in the basket for us and we were sharing it."
Sendek put the ball in the hands of Carson who scored 13 points and doled out three assists in a clean first half in which the freshman did not commit a turnover.
As Carson guided the offense, the Sun Devil defense had its best half of Pac-12 conference play.
With sophomore Jonathan Gilling and Carrick Felix combining to limit Cougars star Brock Motum to just 3-12 from the field, Washington State scored just 22 first half points.
The relentless effort continued out of the locker room as the Sun Devils opened the second half on an 11-4 run.
Felix provided the lift with eight of his team's first 10 points after halftime en route to his 11th double-double of the year.
"Once again, Carrick was nothing short of spectacular. Another double-double, just the energy he's playing with is incredible," Sendek said.
Despite a 10-2 run from the Cougars that came midway through the second half, the Sun Devils built up a solid cushion that prevented Washington State from cutting their deficit below eight points.
Down the stretch, the Sun Devil guards fed center Jordan Bachynski who unleashed two dunks and scored nine of his 12 points in a strong second half.
Bachynski also contributed seven rebounds and five blocks on Wednesday night and took ownership of a center position he has shared with senior Ruslan Pateev of late.
"Jordan put a stamp on the game with his blocked shots," Sendek said. "We were really trying to go to Jordan. He made some big buckets for us and another time he got fouled."
The win over Washington State marked the 20th time the Sun Devils have found the win column this season and the 15th time they have done so at home.
While the crowd support has been much maligned this year, Arizona State's .833 winning percentage at Wells Fargo Arena shows the Sun Devils' comfort level in Tempe.
The Sun Devils return to action on Saturday evening hoping to pad their NCAA tournament resume with a critical showdown against Washington.
The matchup with the Huskies marks the final home game for the Arizona State seniors and Felix knows it will be a special moment for him.
"It's going to be an emotional time just because of the fact that I've been here for three years," Felix said. "The trials and tribulations I've been through throughout my college career, to know that it's almost here at the end with these guys...It's definitely going to be hard but it's going to be exciting."
If Felix plays anything like he did on Wednesday night, the Arizona State crowd will be anything but silent.