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Big Green Caught In Sun Devils’ Glare

Tempe, Ariz. — The Arizona State Sun Devils bounced back from an ugly loss yesterday with a 61-42 victory over Dartmouth.

Their coach wasn’t particularly impressed.

“Offensively, we certainly didn’t play in a manner that would give us much breathing room, starting with our nine first-half turnovers,” Herb Sendek said. “And then once again we struggled with the free-throw line, and for the second game in a row we really struggled shooting 3s. That puts extra pressure on your defense, especially against a team like Dartmouth.”

Jahii Carson scored 18 points and Arizona State used a late second-half run to finally put the game away. Carrick Felix added 13 points and a career-best 14 rebounds for the Sun Devils (9-2), who lost to DePaul 78-61 at home Wednesday.

Carson and Felix each had four of their team’s 11 steals. Felix also had five of his team’s nine blocked shots.

Sendek called Felix’s game “tremendous,” even though the senior was just 6 of 15 shooting.

“I mean, he’s a stat-sheet stuffer, right?” the coach said. “I was just really pleased with the way he played today.”

Arizona State outscored Dartmouth, an Ivy League team made up almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores, 15-3 after the Big Green had cut the lead to 46-39 with 7:09 to play.

Gabas Maldunas scored 12 points and John Golden added 10 for Dartmouth (2-7), which shot just 33 percent from the field to the Sun Devils’ 46 percent. Arizona State struggled at the foul line again, making 7 of 13. Dartmouth was even worse at 5 of 15.

Dartmouth tried to slow it down, a pace last season’s Arizona State team would have appreciated. Not this year, though, with the electric young Carson at the controls.

“‘They tried to get in their half-court set and slow the game down and just make us play their speed. But I think we did a pretty good job of making them play our speed, with the fast tempo a little bit, getting them tired, getting them out of that offense,” he said. “They started getting fatigued and started to try to get easy buckets. They started to go to the basket where we have shot blockers, guys who can make plays at the defensive end, and that’s what got our energy going.”

Still, Felix said “it’s a huge concern” that the Sun Devils allow inferior teams to stay close.

“We always want to be ready going into conference (play) because every day is going to be a constant grind, every game’s going to be a battle,” Felix said. “I think we just need to be aware we can’t start out slow. We can’t let another team punch us first. We attack them.”

Arizona State broke away from an early 11-11 tie, took the lead for good with a 14-0 run that spanned 7 minutes of the first half and was up 31-21 at the break.

In the second half, Carson faked a drive toward the basket and found Evan Gordon for a wide-open 3 to put the Sun Devils up 41-28 with 11:43 remaining, but Mitola responded with a 3, then Maldunas sank a jumper from the free-throw line to cut the lead to 41-33 with 10:47 left.

Dartmouth had a chance to get closer, but Maldunas missed a pair of free throws.

Arizona State scored the next five points. Felix made one of two free throws, then stole the ball and found Carson for a layup. Gordon’s layup made it 46-33 with 9:08 to go.

The persistent Big Green came back one more time, cutting it to 46-39 on Maldunas’ jumper with 7:09 left.

Arizona State scored the in next eight, four on layups by Felix with assists from Carson. The run reached 12-1 when Carson scored on yet another layup that made it 58-40 with 4:06 to play, and the outcome was no longer in doubt.

“I can’t complain about our effort. The guys are going out there and giving it their all,” Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier said. “We are not a good shooting team right now, but we simply cannot have shooting percentages like we did today, especially at the free-throw line. When playing a team of Arizona State’s caliber, you can’t give away scoring opportunities.”

The Sun Devils have two nonconference games remaining, at Texas Tech next Saturday and at home against Coppin State on Dec. 29. Arizona State begins Pac-12 play Jan. 2 at home against Utah.

Dartmouth is at Bryant next Saturday and at Boston College on Dec. 31 before beginning a four-game homestand against Colgate on Jan. 5.