Coming off arguably their worst performance of the season last Sunday against Utah, head coach Herb Sendek questioned the effort of his club. On Wednesday night against Stanford, there was no question of effort or hustle as the Sun Devils cruised to a 76-64 victory over the Stanford Cardinal.
"I thought are team played really well tonight," said Sendek. "Guys played unselfishly and they played smart on offense. They took good shots and they made each other better."
The Sun Devils came out with relentless pressure and high intensity on the defensive side of the ball. Forcing three turnovers on Stanford's first three possessions. The Sun Devils made their first three shots and led 8-0 less than 90 seconds into the game.
Arizona State shot 54-percent from the field in the first half, on their way to a 39-29 halftime lead. The Sun Devils recorded 11 assists on 14 made baskets in the first half, as players continually looked to make the extra pass. Seven different players recorded at least three points in the first half.
"When we are at our best that's how the ball should move," said Sendek. "I thought our guys were really connected on both ends of the floor. That starts with our point guard Jahii. I thought his decision making was outstanding tonight."
Through the game's first 20 minutes, Carson had just three points on 1-4 shooting. However, in the second half the redshirt-sophomore exploded for 23 points and was a perfect 7-7 from the field. Carson hit all eight of his free throw attempts and tallied four assists in the victory.
"I like to try to see how they are trying to defend me and I like to pick my spots early," said Carson. "After the first half I knew how they were defending me and it was easier for me to attack the defense."
Arizona State received key contributions from several players against the Stanford. Jonathan Gilling finished with a team-high six assists, Bo Barnes added eight points and six assists off the bench and Calaen Robinson gave the Sun Devils good minutes when Carson needed a breather.
The Sun Devil big men were in foul trouble all night. Eric Jacobsen fouled out of the game with 8:27 left in the second half and Bachysnki picked up his fourth personal midway through the second. Sendek turned to his small lineup, moving Gilling to the center position and forcing Barnes to guard forwards.
"We were saddled and had no real other option but to go small," said Sendek. "Offensively it was working out well for us, defensively we were challenged in a few areas with that lineup but we were just trying to hold even."
One of the biggest challenges against Stanford is guarding junior forward Dwight Powell. In his last meeting with Arizona State on February 1, Powell posted a game-high 28 points, five rebounds and five assists. Tonight, Powell was limited to just 11 points on 2-9 shooting with six rebounds.
"I think we just played a very good team defensive game," said Sendek. "I thought our guys did a great job of focusing and playing with great purpose on defense. Guys were active, guys were helping each other."
Arizona State played a full 40 minutes Wednesday night, something the team has not done very often in Pac-12 play this season. Stanford never led, there were no runs by the Cardinal and no lapses by the Sun Devils. It's a feat their coach chuckled about after the game.
"You just never know how a team is going to play from one media timeout to another let alone one game to the next," said Sendek. "It is like going ice skating for the first time, you just never know. Our team last week and our team tonight, if I could forecast that I wouldn't be in coaching."
Up next for Arizona State is a home matchup with Cal on Saturday afternoon.
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