ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Jahii Carson was a game-time decision Friday night because of a right ankle injury. Fortunately for Arizona State, the sophomore guard decided to play.
“I just felt like my presence out there would be huge for my team, the leadership I like to bring,” Carson said. “It was tough. I didn’t practice all week and tried to hop in there at shootaround this morning. The doctor gave me a nice anti-inflammatory medicine and I came out there and tried to play my game.”
Carson certainly was the player of the game as he scored a game-high 23 points and had nine rebounds and five assists as Arizona State used a dominant second half to cruise to a 78-56 victory over DePaul.
Jermaine Marshall had 20 points, Shaquielle McKissic had 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds and center Jordan Bachynski had eight blocks as Arizona State (8-2) bounced back after losing two of the previous three games.
“Any time you can beat a BCS school, it’s big, especially with the schedule that we have,” Carson said.
Billy Garrett led DePaul with 14 points, but the Blue Demons struggled offensively throughout the game, going 19-for-65 for a season-low 29.2 percent.
DePaul (4-4) was coming off its most impressive win of the season, a 93-81 victory over Oregon State last Sunday.
DePaul played without point guard Brandon Young, who sat out because of an ankle injury. Young is the team’s assists leader and second-leading scorer (16.3 points) and the Blue Demons appeared unsettled without their leader early on.
“Clearly, offensively we struggled and seemed a little rudder-less out there,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “Brandon’s ability to drive the ball would have been helpful.”
DePaul didn’t record its first field goal until nearly five minutes had expired when Garrett scored on a layup with 15:13 left in the first half.
Arizona State, though, had its own offensive issues early. Although the Sun Devils led throughout the first half, they were never able to open a significant lead despite the fact DePaul made just 10 of 36 shots (27.8 percent), including 1-for-11 from three-point range.
Cleveland Melvin, the Blue Demons’ leading scorer, was scoreless in the first half, and finished with seven points on 2-for-12 shooting.
“We took some bad shots, particularly early in the shot clock,” Purnell said.
Still, Arizona State only led 28-25 at halftime.
“I thought early we missed some good shots,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “We might have had a record at one point for most layups missed. (But) we have good shooters and we thought the shots would go down for us.”
That’s precisely how the second half played out. The Sun Devils scored the first four points of the half for a 34-25 advantage and a few minutes later stretched their advantage to double digits (45-34) for the first time on a basket by McKissic.
Following a DePaul basket, the onslaught continued as ASU hit a three-pointer on its next three possessions — the first two by Marshall — to give it a 54-36 edge with 12:02 to play. The lead reached 20 points (56-36) on a basket by Eric Jacobsen on the next possession and the rout was on.
“We pushed the tempo a little more,” Carson said of the second half. “We’re a run-and-gun team. We let them control the tempo early, and once we got in a rhythm and a groove, we controlled the tempo and exposed the weakness of their transition defense.
“I definitely think we got into a rhythm later in the game and got to hitting our shots and our defense playing the way it does.”
The difference in the surge was shooting. The Sun Devils started knocking down shots with uncanny regularity, while the Blue Demons continued to struggle. With the score 61-41 with just under eight minutes left, ASU was 11-for-16 (68.8 percent) from the field in the second half (including 3-for-5 on three-pointers) and DePaul was 5-for-19 (26.3 percent).
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