TEMPE, Ariz. — A special chemistry between Carrick Felix and Jahii Carson has propelled Arizona State to a 20-win season.
They know they need more to make it to the NCAA tournament.
Felix had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Carson scored 21 and Arizona State beat Washington State 69-57 on Wednesday night.
“The thing about those two guys is they love to play,” Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek said. “Guys who play with energy typically are guys who love to play. They’re a little bit like basketball’s version of Ernie Banks, they just love being out there.”
Jordan Bachynski added 12 points and five blocked shots for the Sun Devils (20-7, 9-5 Pac-12), who reached 20 wins for the fourth time in Sendek’s seven seasons at the school.
Brock Motum scored 17, Royce Woolridge 16 and DaVonte Lacy 15 for the last-place Cougars (11-16, 2-12) in their seventh loss in a row.
Arizona State finished the first half with a 14-3 run to lead 36-22 at the break and was up by as many as 21 before Washington State cut it to eight in the late going.
The Sun Devils, one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country this season, sealed the win with eight straight in the final 1:35.
Felix and Carson both grew up in the Phoenix area and played against each other as youngsters, despite the difference in their age. Now, with Felix a senior and Carson a freshman, they want to lead a stretch run that gets an Arizona State team that was picked in the preseason to finish last in the Pac-12 into the NCAA field.
“If we win all of our games, there’s no question we’re going to be in it,” Carson said. “But if we slip up and we start losing a couple of games, close ones, that means we’re on the bubble and there’s a chance we won’t go.”
Arizona State plays its final home game Saturday against Washington, then is at UCLA, USC and Arizona before the Pac-12 tournament.
Wednesday’s game turned in the final 5:49 of the first half. After Felix made one of two free throws to put Arizona State ahead 23-19, Carson brought the crowd to its feet when he drove from midcourt down the lane and soared for a dunk. On the Sun Devils’ next possession, Carson found Evan Gordon open for a 3-pointer. Another 3, by Jonathan Gilling, capped a 9-0 spurt and made it 31-19 with 4:18 left in the half.
Motum’s three-point play cut the lead to 31-22, but Gilling sank another 3 to boost the lead to 34-22 with 2:34 left, then Carson made both ends of a one-and-one with 7.6 seconds to play to make it a 14-point game at halftime.
Washington State shot 33 percent in the first half (9 for 27) and was 3 of 12 on 3s. Arizona State, on the other hand, shot 52 percent and made 5 of 12 3-pointers.
Felix scored the first five points of the second half to put the Sun Devils ahead 41-22.
Felix’s 3 gave Arizona State its biggest lead, 49-28, with 12:15 to go, but the Cougars scored the next eight points to cut it to 49-36 on Lacy’s 3-pointer with 9:47 to play. Carson’s 3 boosted it to 56-40 with 7½ minutes to go but the Cougars scored the next five, cutting it to 56-45 on another 3 by Lacy with 7:05 to go.
Woolridge’s layup made it 61-53 with 2:24 to play, but Carson made both halves of a one-and-one to boost it back to 10. After Woolridge scored again inside, Gordon made two free throws to put Arizona State up 65-55 with 1:18 to play. Motum cut the lead to 65-57, but Felix made four straight free throws to end the game.
The Sun Devils had 18 assists in 23 baskets.
The Cougars were coming off a heart-wrenching overtime loss to Oregon. But they were playing from behind from almost the start in this one before falling to 1-7 on the road.
“They’re trying hard, doing whatever they can,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said, “fighting and scratching to get a win. We got beat by a better team tonight.”