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January 13, 2014

Carson struggles in UCLA loss

LOS ANGELES -- For Jahii Carson, the ultimate indignation came on his final shot attempt of an unseemly performance.

A left handed layup attempt by Arizona State's star sophomore guard wedged itself between the backboard and rim and wouldn't come back down to Earth.

The Sun Devils, too, it appears, are stuck.

Carson and his team didn't play in a manner befitting of the setting in famed and newly renovated Pauley Pavilion in ASU's 87-72 blowout loss at the hands of UCLA.

It dropped ASU to 13-4 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-12 and suggested much work is to be done if the Sun Devils are going to emerge as a top-half team in a challenging conference, which figures to be necessary if an elusive NCAA Tournament post-season at-large appearance is to be achieved.

ASU doesn't appear to be trending in the right direction after playing much better at times in non-conference play, including on the road at UNLV. Carson has, at least based on his high capability, been in a bit of a funk.

Carson's final stat line included a 4 of 17 effort from the field, 0 of 5 from 3-point range, with nine points, four personal fouls, four turnovers and two assists.

"Obviously he didn't play anywhere near his capability tonight and that certainly has a tremendous effect on our team because he's such a key player for us," ASU coach Herb Sendek said of Carson.

There were plenty of things that deserved critique.

The Sun Devils turned the ball over on four straight first-half possessions, jump-starting an 11-0 run by UCLA that turned a 12-6 ASU advantage into a 17-12 Bruin lead.

From there, the Bruins pushed their advantage to 32-18 with starting senior wing Shaquielle McKissic on the bench with two fouls in a game with a lot of whistles blown by the officiating crew.

The 26-6 run took a lot of air out of the Sun Devils, something senior guard Jermaine Marshall noticed and felt needed correction moving forward.

"That's my job as a fifth year senior, to motivate our guys," said Marshall, a lone bright spot with 25 points on 9 of 14 shooting. I got to do a better job of that. We got down early and everybody got bad body language, dropping their head. I've got to be a better leader, that's all.

"A team like that, a great offensive team, you definitely can't turn the ball over and give them easy buckets. But we have to come back down the floor on the other end and play defense regardless. I don't think we did a good job of that. That's where the game slipped away."

ASU cut the Bruins' lead to nine points with an impressive run in the second-half not long after Sendek received a technical foul for arguing with officials about a non-call on a Marshall driving layup.

But after that, senior center Jordan Bachynski bobbled a ball near the rim on a possession that could have further cut into the UCLA lead and the Bruins scored on the other end and it ended ASU's charge.

Led by freshman guard Zach LaVine, who scored 19 points on just 12 shots off the bench and hit 3 of 3 from behind the 3-point arc, the Bruins shot 58.3 percent from long-range and also got a lot of point blank looks at the basket including a highlight reel transition dunk by LaVine.

"He's really talented," Sendek said of LaVine. "That guy, he's a next level talent. He's so athletic and can really shoot the ball. He has great spring, great fluidity. I was tremendously impressed with him. I can see why he's received the kind of accolades he has so early. He's a special talent."

Briefly mentioning the frequent stoppage of play due to foul calls, ASU's star Carson said his team's offense didn't establish the right rhythm or emotional disposition as things spiraled out of control.

"I think a lot of times we come out with a lack of energy," Carson said. "A lot of guys need a spark and we try to spark each other. But I just feel like I really can't pinpoint why we come out with not a lot of energy. Sometimes we have a great start and teams come back and we fall back and don't attack. That's one of the things I really can't pinpoint.

"Teams have been stopping the drive so I've been having some games where I'm hitting the jumper, not hitting the jumper. Some guys, when they don't hit their shots, it's tough to get into a rhythm. If I can't get in a rhythm offensively as far as making guys better or making myself better, it's tough. Because then it's easy for the defense to defend us as a whole."

ASU will have to get it figured out in a hurry, as a game at No. 1 Arizona on Thursday looms large.


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