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December 13, 2012Arizona State's home fans were still on their feet at Wells Fargo Arena.
Freshman point guard Jahii Carson had sliced and diced his way into the heart of the DePaul defense not once or twice but five times at the outset of Wednesday's game, going to the free throw line four times and making both of his field goal attempts as the Sun Devils raced out to a 7-0 lead in the game's first four minutes.
Then it all turned sour.
The Blue Demons had missed their first six shots but then turned hot, aided by a full court trapping defense that kept the Sun Devils disjoined on offense through what would eventually become a 78-61 DePaul win in front of 5,401.
The loss, ASU's first at home, dropped it to 8-2 on the year, while DePaul improved to 7-3.
"We didn't play ASU basketball, we lost track of some of the possessions, lost track of some of our guys, we definitely weren't playing ASU basketball," said senior wing Carrick Felix, one of three players to lead the Sun Devils with 12 points along with Carson and junior guard Evan Gordon.
DePaul used a 17-6 run over the ensuing four and a half minutes to take a 17-13 lead, and it wouldn't trail the rest of the way. It built its lead to 14 points late in the half before the Sun Devils cut their deficit to nine points at halftime and six points at 18:54 of the second half, but that's as close as they'd get.
Brandon Young had 18 points and nine assists to lead the Blue Demons and three others reached double figures.
"I thought we didn't have enough movement, I thought the ball stuck and on top of all of that, when we did have good shots, when we did have open shots, we didn't shoot the ball well," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "We were 3 for 15 from 3 (point range), we had some wide open shots that don't convert and then at any number of junctures, including the start of the game, we don't give ourselves any relief with our free throw shooting."
After seeing ASU's success early in the half court set, DePaul switched to a full court trap. It didn't lead the Sun Devils to a slew of turnovers -- it had 13 in the game, slightly higher than Sendek would like but not a bad performance -- but kept them from a comfortable flow getting into its offensive possessions.
Carson started to see a lot of help defenders come his way, and ASU didn't respond to it well.
"You've got to figure that teams are going to load to him and he's going to draw an extra defender at times," Sendek said. "Which is good because that's what great players do, they force a second defender and now when two guards one, that's what offensive basketball is designed to do. Now the ball moves and someone theoretically should be more open to take a shot or drive a close out on a rotation."
Perhaps most alarming, ASU's players said they felt DePaul out-hustled them throughout the game, a particularly glaring indictment considering their stated desire to respond after being blown out by the team in their meeting a year ago.
"I just think they wanted it more than us," Carson said. "We've got guys who are just as athletic as them, they just wanted it more. They wanted to come out here and get a convincing win. They fought for loose balls, they dove for loose balls, they were intense with energy from the jump off and after the 15 minute mark I think our energy decreased and their elevated."
ASU had just 10 deflections in the first half, well below average, Sendek said, and when the ball was on the floor, more than likely it was going to end up in the hands of a Blue Demon.
"It's always the little things," Felix said. "It's never the big plays, highlight plays. It's always the little things. 50-50 balls, turnovers, making free throws that win games and definitely DePaul did that tonight. We got one 50-50 ball and they got seven of them. So they won that battle."
DePaul made a number of contested shots throughout the game and particularly in the second half, but it probably didn't need to considering it out-rebounded ASU by 10 and was able to get a lot of high percentage looks at the basket coupled with significantly more possessions.
"I don't think we were able to string any stops together whatsoever," Sendek said. "They got into the paint at will as is reflected by their shooting percentage. 50 percent for the game, 55 in the second half and they scored 78 points. They beat us off the dribble, they beat us curling screens and I thought they had their way with us when they had the ball."
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