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February 21, 2013Though it may have been its 20th win of the season, Arizona State knows it's no magic benchmark. It's only a number on the way to a goal with an uncertain finish line.
It's going to take more wins, perhaps three, maybe four, possible five, for the Sun Devils to have a resume capable of avoiding the heartache felt in 2009-10, when 22-11 and second place in the Pac-12 wasn't good enough.
The Sun Devils beat Washington State 69-57 on Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena to improve to 20-7 overall and 9-5 in league play with four games left before the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas starting March 13.
"We're not going to stop now," senior wing Carrick Felix said. "We have an opportunity to go to the Tournament and that's our goal right now. But we still want to stay in the present day. We've got a big game this Saturday against Washington and it's going to be a good one."
After building a 21 point second half lead Wednesday, the Sun Devils had some unforced gaffes including two backcourt turnovers and allowed the Cougars to as close as eight points with 1:27 left.
The Cougars dropped to 11-16 overall and 2-12 in league play.
Felix led ASU with 11 rebounds and 23 points on just 11 shot attempts and freshman point guard Jahii Carson had 21 points and five assists.
"The thing about those two guys is they love to play," ASU coach Herb Sendek said of the two star players. "Guys who play with energy are typically guys who love to play. Just being around Jahii and Carrick you get the feeling that they just love to play. They're a little bit like basketball's version of Ernie Banks. They just enjoy being out there."
The game started in odd fashion, with ASU's student section remaining quiet until its team scored its 13th point in honor of former star and current NBA sensation James Harden Beard Night.
Others in the arena, including ASU's coach and some players, had no idea what was going on.
"I'm thinking to myself, this is the quietest arena I've ever been in," Sendek said. "There's no energy, there's no spirit."
"I was confused," Felix said. "I didn't know what was going on. It was awkward at first, I was like, 'Are we bringing no energy? Does the crowd not like what we're doing?' But it was fun."
What also had to be enjoyable for Felix was the ball movement that generated 18 assists on 23 made baskets and led the team to a 50 percent shooting effort from the field. The easiest attempt of the night may have been Carson's first career dunk at the arena, which came as the Cougars inexplicably failed to pick him up in the halfcourt despite having all five defenders back.
Visiting maroon jerseys parted like a crimson sea and Carson bounded down the imaginary mid-line before exploding off two feet for the finish.
"It was about time I got one here," Carson said. "I've been waiting to get one here and I saw it and said, 'Oh yeah, I've got to take that.' I don't want anyone on my head for not dunking at home."
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