GAME NOTES: Third-round action of the 2012 Las Vegas Invitational takes place at Orleans Arena on Friday, as the Arkansas Razorbacks clash with the Arizona State Sun Devils in a meeting of undefeated squads.
Arizona, which was a runner-up in this event two years ago when it lost to Kansas (87-79), is hitting the road for the first time in 2012-13 after claiming three wins at home to begin the campaign. The squad opened with a 79-64 victory versus Central Arkansas on Nov. 10 and then followed that up with a 97-70 triumph versus Florida A&M in the third round of this tourney. The most recent win came on Tuesday versus Cornell, a 64-53 affair.
As for the Razorbacks, who won the first and only other meeting between these programs in the Southeast Regional of the 1991 NCAA Tournament in Atlanta, 97-90, also have two earlier wins in this event. Their road to Sin City was paved with a 112-63 lopsided win over Longwood on Sunday, followed by an 89-60 decision against the aforementioned Rattlers.
The championship round of the tourney takes place on Saturday, with the winner of this game going up against the winner of the Wisconsin/Creighton battle for the title.
Arizona State rattled home just eight field goals in the first half against the Big Red earlier this week, shooting a mere 27.6 percent from the floor, including 3-of-18 behind the three-point line which led to the team's three- point deficit at the break. Luckily, the Sun Devils rebounded after the break, connecting on 5-of-9 on the perimeter and 15-of-20 at the free-throw line. Jahii Carson led the way with a game-high 21 points and handed out four assists, followed by Carrick Felix with 10 points and four steals. Jordan Bachynski contributed 10 rebounds, eight points and seven blocked shots. Bachynski has been an absolute beast on the inside for the Sun Devils in the early going, capturing 10.0 rpg and also averaging better than seven rejections per outing, not to mention delivering 13.0 ppg to place second on the team in the latter department. Carson heads a list of five double-digit scorers with his 18.7 ppg as the team produces 80.0 ppg.
At Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday night, Arkansas scored the first points of the meeting with Florida A&M and never looked back, holding the visitors to just 31.7 percent shooting from the floor and forcing them into 22 turnovers, which was two more than they had made field goals. Marshawn Powell led all scorers with 21 points and also pulled down 10 rebounds, followed by Rickey Scott with 13 points and six boards off the bench. Also playing a key role in the win were BJ Young with 12 points, Mardracus Wade 11 and Coty Clarke 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Over the course of three games, Arkansas has managed to limit opponents to just 39.2 percent shooting from the floor and forced an average of 23 turnovers. Young is tops on offense right now with his 17.5 ppg, although Powell is close behind with 17.0 ppg thanks to his 56.3 percent shooting from the field. Clarke is the spark off the bench with 11.3 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds per contest.
If Arkansas has any designs on trying to attack the inside against the Sun Devils, they'd better reconsider with the way Bachynski is playing right now.
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