TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jahii Carson is ready for take two in Tucson.
“This is the biggest game we’ve played this season,” said Carson, ASU’s point guard. “It’s our rival.”
Carson’s Arizona State Sun Devils travel to Tucson Saturday for the regular season finale against Arizona.
Arizona won the season’s first meeting 71-54 in Tempe on Jan. 19. For Carson and his teammates the stakes this time are higher.
Losses in six of their last nine games have left the Sun Devils in the unenviable position of having to beat the 18th ranked Wildcats on their home floor to keep any hope alive of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve had a week to prepare and mentally check in again,” Carson said. “It’s going to come down to who’s stronger and who wants it more.”
Carson feels the weight of reaching the NCAA Tournament played a role in his team’s recent struggles.
“I think it definitely was,” Carson said. “Guys wanted it so bad they ended up burping. I think we’re back focused.”
Focused and free of foul trouble will help Carson as he tries to avenge the January loss to the Wildcats.
Carson picked up three first half fouls in that game and even though foul trouble did not take him out of the game, it took him out of his game.
Carson was unable to attack the basket for fear of picking up an offensive foul while Arizona guards Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons took advantage on the other end of the floor by slicing Carson and the ASU defense for 43 combined points.
“Foul trouble,” Carson explained. “I wasn’t really able to do too much. I’m going to be smarter this game and use my head a little bit more and attack a little bit more. We don’t want to settle for jump shots. We want to get their bigs in foul trouble and get the win.”
A win that would, to date anyway, be the crown jewel in Carson’s sensational freshman season.
“This is the first time people in Tucson are going to get to see me play and our team play,” Carson said. “It’s definitely a hostile environment and one of the loudest arenas in the country. It’s my first time going down there and I want to make a statement.”