Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats’ Nick Johnson & ASU’s Jahii Carson friendly, intense rivalry of its own


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Nick Johnson is 3-1 against ASU in his Arizona career

Nick Johnson is 3-1 against ASU in his Arizona career

Can’t you picture friendly (yet intense) rivals Jahii Carson of ASU and Nick Johnson of Arizona — two Phoenix-area products who have played with and against each other since they were 8 — sitting together as grandfathers playfully jabbing at each other about what they achieved in their careers?

“Oh yeah?” Carson says in response to one of Johnson’s pokes. “Did you ever score 40 points in a game like I did at UNLV? I’m a man. I dropped 40! (Using the line ASU’s media-relations department uses in its game releases).”

“I didn’t have to score 40 points,” Johnson says. “Were you a key guy for the No. 1 team in the country? If you want to talk about points, I scored more than 1,000 career points within a team concept for a basketball powerhouse.”

Jahii Carson leads ASU with 18.1 points a game

Jahii Carson leads ASU with 18.1 points a game

“OK, OK, I get that but my team relied on me and I came through,” Carson answers. “Pac-12 Freshman of the Year … team-high 18 points game … heck, my style of play brought fans into Wells Fargo when otherwise they would be at a Suns game or playing golf.”

“Jahii, you were valuable, but no more valuable than I was with the U of A,” Johnson says. “It’s always been about team with me. My guys fed off of my style of play, especially my defense. I was not all about being ‘Bunnies’ and jumping out of the gym, although I did that pretty good too didn’t I?”

Carson, noticing Johnson’s grin, says: “Man, you know my vertical was just as good as yours — 47 inches. People gasped when they saw me jump. With you, they were like, ‘His daddy (Joey Johnson) could jump, so he better be ‘Bunnies’ and all of that.”

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ArizonaLogo ASUlogo

ASU (13-4, 2-2) VS.
NO. 1 ARIZONA (17-0, 3-0)

Tip: 7:07 p.m. MST
Television: Fox Sports 1 (Gus Johnson/Bill Raftery)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 91; XM 91
Rankings: Arizona – No. 1 AP Top 25/No. 1 USA Today Coaches Poll; Arizona State – Not ranked in either.

ARIZONA BEST STARTS
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LONGEST WINNING STREAK
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“Jumping, scoring, dunking … it all goes back to winning,” Johnson would say. “Coach (Sean) Miller probably almost fainted when I tried a 360, but I didn’t disappoint him with my effort. You should know that better than me how important it was to be with a winning program with the good times we Wildcats had when I was there.”

“We didn’t win as much as you guys but my time at ASU taught me a lot of things about becoming stronger,” Carson says. “I would not trade that.”

They pause. Carson raises a glass to toast.

“I was still better than you,” Carson says.

“Oh yeah?” Johnson answers.

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PAC-12 STANDINGS
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ARIZONA OVERALL PRODUCTIVITY RATING
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ARIZONA’S STRENGTHS VS. QUESTION MARKS
Per NCAA national statistic rankings out of 345 Division I teams
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Arizona is No. 1 and 16-0 despite deficiencies with total steals, free-throw shooting and number of three-pointers made. Arizona is solid with its rebounding, defense in particular in the lane and overall shooting percentage. The Wildcats are taking smart shots by taking advantage of their size inside. Turnovers are a concern, although Arizona improved with only eight at USC Sunday. The Wildcats average 11.4 turnovers a game. Miller wants no more than 10. ASU averages 10.9 turnovers a game. Carson’s assist-to-turnover ratio can improve. He has a team-high 79 assists but also has 58 turnovers.

ARIZONA AS NO. 1 TEAM
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WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and TucsonCitizen.com.

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