It was a coming out party for more than one player on Wednesday night. Wells Fargo Arena was rocking at the sight of the flashy play of freshman guard Jahii Carson and the stellar post play from center Eric Jacobsen. Needless to say, it was the young guys that stole the show.
Despite their outstanding efforts, the Devils (7-1) made their game against the Hartford Hawks (4-4) more difficult than it needed to be. ASU went 11-23 from the free throw line after shooting just 2-9 in the first half. The Sun Devils also allowed the Hawks to have their way from beyond the arc. Hartford shot 12-29 from deep, including a 6-12 three point shooting performance by Nate Sikma, son of NBA legend Jack Sikma.
"The Achilles heel obviously is our free throw shooting," coach Herb Sendek said after the game. "We make free throws and maybe we have just a little bit different feel at certain junctures of the game."
Although Sendek was not pleased with his team's foul shooting performance, he did laud the fact that they were at least able to get to the line. In fact, Coach Sendek dropped the gold nugget stat of the night in saying that ASU is just one free throw shy of making more than Arizona State's opponents have attempted this season. He also stated that the only way to avoid missing so many shots from the charity stripe is to keep on shooting, as it is something the team regularly practices.
On the bright side, this was freshman Eric Jacobsen's best performance to date as he set a career high in points with 16. Carson contributed with his fourth 20-point game of the season. Carrick Felix also had a huge night for the Devils, recording his second consecutive double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. His energy contribution was what kept his team in the game.
"I think he stepped up. He stepped up big," Carson said of Jacobsen's performance. "He's physical down low, he's proven that every single game. Tonight I think he just took advantage of the mismatches he had down low."
Coach Sendek continually stated that it is Jacobsen's "defensive versatility" that makes him so valuable on the court. Starting center Jordan Bachynski saw just 22 minutes of play on the evening due to the perimeter ability that Hartford's big men have. Jacobsen simply presented a style of play that allows him to defend both the post and the perimeter.
"With these opponents that we've had who are playing a 6'6" post who can shoot threes and go off the dribble, Eric (Jacobsen) provides us with someone who can, as a big guy, go out on the perimeter and guard, he can guard in the post and that still allows us to run our offense on the other end of the floor," Sendek said. "His contribution has been invaluable."