TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Jahii Carson had 20 points and six assists, Eric Jacobsen added 16 points, and Arizona State used a dominating defensive stretch in the second half to beat Hartford 71-63 Wednesday night.
Arizona State (7-1) traded baskets with the Hawks from a hot-shooting first half until picking up the pressure midway through the second.
Contesting shots and snatching steals, the Sun Devils held Hartford to one field goal for more than 11 minutes and to 9-of-31 shooting in the second half.
Carrick Felix added 11 points and 11 rebounds for Arizona State, which shot 56 percent to overcome an 11 for 23 night from the free-throw line.
Hartford (4-4) kept up with the Sun Devils in the first half, but faded in the second under their pressure and size.
Nate Sikma had 26 points, but Hawks leading scorer Mark Nwakamma missed all eight of his shots.
Arizona State held opponents to an average of 66 points through the first seven games, and Hartford hasn’t been bad, either, allowing 68 per game.
Of course, this one was all about the offense.
With Carson breaking the Hawks down off the dribble, Arizona State made its first six shots and 15 of 24 in the first half.
Carson had 11 points by halftime and helped create opportunities for teammates, even when he didn’t get the assist.
The problem for the Sun Devils was they couldn’t make shots when no one was guarding them — 2 for 9 on free throws — or keep the Hawks from scoring at the other end.
Firing from all over the arc, Hartford made five 3-pointers by the midpoint of the first half and 10 of its first 17 shots to take a 24-19 lead.
Sikma, the son of former NBA player Jack Sikma, led the way, hitting three 3-pointers on his way to 13 points by halftime.
The Hawks cooled off a little from the perimeter, going 6 for 16 from 3-point range, but made 13 of 26 shots overall and were still within 36-35 after Sikma hit a 3 in the closing seconds.
Nwakamma, who averages 15 points per game, played just seven minutes in the first half, missing his only shot against Arizona State’s big front line.
The good shooting continued to open the second half, with Sikma scoring inside, then on a 3-pointer. The Sun Devils matched the Hawks almost shot for shot, and the teams traded baskets for a while, neither able to get more than a few points ahead.
Arizona State started to put its defensive foot down after that, holding the Hawks to one field goal until the final 3 minutes while Carson kept finding holes in their defense.
The Sun Devils’ redshirt freshman repeatedly beat his man off the dribble, setting up Jacobsen for a pair of hoops inside, then scored on a high-arcing runner off the glass after sidestepping his defender. Evan Gordon added a 3-pointer from the wing, and Carson found Jacobsen again on the break after a turnover for a layup, putting Arizona State up 64-54.
Hartford finally broke its scoring drought after that, but it was too late.