Jahii Carson went nuts.
I’m not really sure how else to explain it.
The 5-foot-10 dynamo from Arizona State scored 40 points on 16-25 shooting and handed out seven assists to lead the Sun Devils to an impressive 86-80 win over UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center.
He really did everything you could ask for out of a point guard. He led the break, he scored out of the pick-and-roll, he broke down defenses at the end of a clock, he created for his teammates (if Jonathan Gilling could hit a shot, Carson would have had a lot more than seven assists), and most importantly, he hit big shots when his team needed them.
The two threes that Carson hit in the second half after UNLV opened up a seven-point lead kept the Rebels from running away with this.
There were other promising signs for the Sun Devils as well, as Jermaine Marshall played excellent in the final minutes and Jordan Bachynski — who finished with 17 points, 15 boards and four blocks — looked like a real low-post presence. But those three scored 77 of Arizona State’s 86 points. They’ll need balance if they don’t want to count on Carson going for 40 every night.
The bigger story here may actually be UNLV, who actually looked better than they did in either of their last two games. The talent is there for the Rebels. Bryce Dejean-Jones is a big-time scorer, Roscoe Smith and Khem Birch make up a very long and very athletic front line, and Kendall Smith looks like he could be the answer at the point guard spot.
UNLV will lead the country in ill-advised shots this season. This is not a smart basketball team. They have a penchant for taking quick shots early in the clock, opting for contested jumpers off the dribble instead of, well, anything else.
They’ll be able to hang with anyone in the country, but can they string together enough quality possessions late in a close game to rack up the wins?