Jahii Carson blitzed the Washington State Cougars in a way that a freshman shouldn’t be able to, even if he is “just that good”. It wasn’t so much the fact that he scored 25, or that he was a leader in crunch time for an Arizona State team that’s riding him to an impending spot in the top 25.
What plagues the Cougars, on top of everything, is that a freshman decided he was taking over and there’s nothing that Washington State could do about it. Nor was there an answer for it on the other end. Repeatedly in the final 10 minutes Carson broke down as many defenders as got in his way and either converted himself or dropped a dime for a score from a teammate. He was a mixtape by himself and it’s no wonder Herb Sendek was beaming after the game when talking about how impressed he was with his point guard.
It’s not only what Arizona State has now, but what the Cougars have been missing all season. Not so much the explosion, few in the nation are as quick as a Jahii Carson. But more the ability from the point guard position (or any guard position) to truly take over a basketball game down the stretch offensively.
Mike Ladd has ripped it up in Pac-12 play from a numbers standpoint, but Thursday only scored 2 points in the final 12 minutes and had no affect whatsoever on the outcome. Royce Woolridge came to life late in the game, scoring 8 of his 16 late, single-handedly clawing his team back from a 7 point deficit with just over 3 minutes to go, to tie it at 58. Yet he wasn’t the guy the Cougs wanted to get the ball to in the final minute for a one-on-one and that speaks volumes for where they are at. DaVonte Lacy was supposed to be the guy for this, but again he was nowhere to be found against the Devils.
Winning teams have that element of clear out, break-down, raw play-making ability in the clutch and Washington State is sorely missing it. The Cougars seem to have a nice balance in their arsenal, ability to shoot from the perimeter, a star big man who can score from everywhere, a gritty defensive effort game in and game out. But their lack of pure, overall athleticism gets exposed in every game down the stretch, even in their wins. It’s an un-fixable problem and it showed up again Thursday night.