SEATTLE — Surrounded by stagnant gymnastics equipment on the Hec Edmundson Pavilion floor, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar wondered Friday if his team would bounce back.
The Huskies have lost four consecutive games. When the defense has been good, the shooting has been poor. When the opponent was mediocre – such as in the case of Utah and Oregon State – Washington has been worse. When opponents have been ranked – such as Oregon and Arizona – Washington has been engaged, but sloppy.
At 12-9 overall and 4-4 in the Pacific-12 Conference, Washington is about to close the first half of conference play with a visit from resurgent Arizona State (17-4, 6-2) at 6 p.m. today.
The Huskies are in a four-way tie for fifth place. Romar is hoping Thursday’s 57-53 loss to Arizona does not linger, as Washington has the quickest turnaround yet in conference play. The prior weeks of the Pac-12 season Washington has had at least two full days in between games.
“I’d rather go play,” Romar said. “Be successful and get this taste out of our mouth. Although deep, way back, that’s not going to go away way back in our thought process, but, at the same time, we would feel a lot better if we get to play against someone else and do a better job.”
A little more than a year ago, Arizona State was a basketball wasteland. The Sun Devils were 7-14 overall and 3-6 in the conference on the way to a 10-21 overall record and 6-12 conference record.
Grumbling about coach Herb Sendek had peaked. The Sun Devils’ best player, Trent Lockett, transferred.
Coming into this season,
Arizona State was picked 11th in the Pac-12 media poll, only ahead of Utah.
But, shifty point guard Jahii Carson has been declared eligible after the NCAA said he could practice but not play last season. With Lockett gone, former Duke signee Carrick Felix has received more responsibility. Jordan Bachynski is still 7-foot-2. Evan Gordon, a transfer from Liberty, is eligible after sitting out a season.
“We felt like we had a chance to turn things around,” Sendek said.
Arizona State received 14 votes in this week’s Associated Press top-25 poll. The Sun Devils’ 6-2 conference record is their best since 1994, and they are off to their best overall start since 1980-81, when ASU began 19-2 behind Byron Scott, Fat Lever and Alton Lister.
Much of the reason for that is because Carson (17.6 points per game) has been dynamic and near impossible to keep out of the paint.
“Carson gives them an entirely different dimension than they ever had,” Romar said. “James Harden went about his business in a different way than Jahii Carson. Derek Glasser was a great player for them for four years. Jahii Carson is a very dynamic little point guard. That’s something they didn’t have last year.”
Carson let Washington State know just what a problem he can be when the Sun Devils beat the Cougars 63-59 on Thursday night. Carson scored 21 points in the second half.
“If you didn’t have to play them the next game, it would have been really special to watch,” Romar said.
Bachynski put together the school’s first triple-double when he scored 13 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked 12 shots against Cal State Northridge on Dec. 8.
“When you’re down there, there’s not a whole lot available,” Romar said.
The same could be said of the bottom of the conference. At the moment, that’s where Washington is en route to.
Arizona State (17-4, 6-2 Pacific-12 Conference) at Washington (12-9, 4-4)
6 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: ESPNU. Radio: 950-AM, 102.9-FM.
All-time series: Washington leads, 38-36.
Abdul GaddyPG11.33.0 3.641.369.1
C.J. WilcoxG 18.64.6 1.9 45.775.0
Scott SuggsF12.12.3 1.739.487.8
Shawn Kemp Jr.F 4.3 2.1 0.1 45.760.0
Aziz N’DiayeC10.5 9.2 0.3 62.144.9
Scouting report: Carson is difficult to keep out of the paint despite the fact he shoots 28.3 percent from behind the 3-point line, which should cause defenders to sag off him. He’s small and persistent, which explains his 132 free-throw attempts this season. Carson is listed at 5-foot-10, rumored to be 5-9 and may be shorter than that. Felix played with Aziz N’Diaye at the College of Southern Idaho and was on his way to Duke before landing at Arizona State. The Sun Devils have abandoned their matchup zone and now play man-to-man defense. They also try to play more up-tempo on offense than in the past. Both are a byproduct of Carson’s abilities.
Next: Washington at UCLA, 7 p.m. Thursday.todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas firstname.lastname@example.org