PULLMAN — The Washington State Cougars saw the future of Pacific-12 Conference basketball Thursday night, and they did not like what they saw – no matter how much they might have admired it.
Redshirt freshman Jahii Carson, a cat-quick little point guard, scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half to rally Arizona State past the Cougars, 63-59, before a crowd of 4,728.
Carson scored 15 of ASU’s 23 points in the last 11 minutes, including the final dagger in WSU’s heart on a drive to the basket for the final points of the game with 11.3 seconds to go.
“He’s just an amazing competitor,” Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek said. “He has tremendous self-confidence. Unbelievable poise for a young player.”
Said Washington State coach Ken Bone: “At the end of the game, he really took over … we just couldn’t stop him.”
Carson sank 10 of 19 field-goal attempts, including 8-of-11 shooting in the second half. The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder drained a pair of 3-pointers in the closing 11 minutes, even though he had sank just five of 24 treys in ASU’s first seven Pac-12 games.
“In the first half,” Carson said, “I was fading away from my jumpers ... in the second half, I started to have more focus and was more straight up and down with my shots.”
Carrick Felix, ASU’s other marquee player, scored all 11 of his points in the second half. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and helped limit Washington State star Brock Motum to a season-low 11 points on 3-for-13 shooting.
“Carrick and (Jonathan) Gilling traded on (Motum) most of the night, and I thought they did a really good job,” Sendek said.
The Sun Devils missed 14 of their first 16 shots, including all nine of their 3-point attempts, to fall behind 13-4. ASU went nearly seven minutes without a point before Liberty transfer Evan Gordon, the brother of NBA veteran Eric Gordon, scored the first two of his 13 points (11 in the first half) to help ASU close to 28-26 at halftime.
Royce Woolridge, a Phoenix-area prep standout like Carson, made big shots down the stretch for Washington State for the second straight game. After scoring one point in the first half, Woolridge finished with team highs of 16 points and four assists.
“I needed to step up,” Woolridge said. “I didn’t feel like I was helping my team in the first half.”
The Sun Devils, who visit Washington on Saturday, improved to 17-4 for their best start since 1980-81. Arizona State’s 6-2 start in league play is the team’s best since 1993-94.
The Cougars, who face eighth-ranked Arizona on Saturday in Pullman (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), slipped to 11-10 and 2-6. They have led in the second half of all but one of their losses.