Jahii Carson paced ASU with 21 points and backcourt teammate Evan Gordon added 20. Carrick Felix posted 17 points and Jonathan Gilling chipped in with 12. Yet today, many of the post-game accolades naturally centered on the 7-2 junior from Calgary, Alberta.
Jordan Bachynski finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks, and humbly heaped praise on his coaches and teammates following his best game in an ASU uniform.
“It’s been a long road from my mission taking two years off,” Bachynski said, “to last year coaches being patient with me…my freshman year pretty much not playing at all. The development I have gone under is a testament to the great coaching staff here. They do a phenomenal job developing players.
“Pretty much all the baskets I got were assists. Jahii, Carrick, Evan…all are great players who fed me the ball at the right time. The points are a big part and that comes from my teammates. I can’t bring the ball up the court; I can’t make my own shot. It comes down to my players doing a good job.”
Granted, the ASU’s center’s numbers are the stats most people will talk about concerning this game, but some numbers that had significant impact on the final score should not be overlooked.
Arizona State attempted 42 free throws today, but their aggressive play didn’t result in a plethora of turnovers (only 11) or fouls (13). The Matadors (7-3) attempted just 12 free throws and had 18 turnovers.
“They were averaging 25 free throws contests a game,” Head Coach Herb Sendek said of today’s opponent. “They were scoring 19 points at the line. So we know we had to keep them off the line. We did a good job getting there (to the free throw line) ourselves, but again we are leaving far too many points out there.
“Not only we did miss 15 (free throws), three front end of one and one’s so the gran total was 18 possible points. You’re not going to shoot 100 percent, but I’d like to see us make a greater portion of those 18 points.”
ASU jumped to a 7-0 lead, but held only a 15-12 edge at the 11:46 mark of the first half. Jahii Carson gave the Sun Devils some breathing room with is seven first half points en route to an 11-3 run to give the hosts a 26-15 lead just two minutes later. Two three pointers by the Matadors Josh Greene helped his squad to nearly erase that deficit, trailing just 29-26 with 5:10 left in the half.
The waning minutes of the first half would probably best be labeled as the Carrick Felix highlight show, as the senior finished three fast breaks each with a thundering dunk as the Sun Devils ended the half with 41-31 advantage.
“That was a key turning point in the game,” Sendek said.
“We are all just trying to play together,” Felix said. “Honestly, outside of basketball we are all brothers. We are all family. You can see that translate onto the court. We all play for each other and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.”
And what about his late first half highlight reel?
“I want to be an energy guy and make hustle plays for my team,” Felix stated. “Defense is probably one of my favorite things to do. Luckily it led to some nice dunks. It definitely feels good (hearing the crowd chant his name). Obviously the past two years it wasn’t anything like that. It’s good feeling seeing more school spirit.”
ASU was never able to distance itself in the second half, trading baskets for literally the entire period. The hosts who forced 12 turnovers in the second half, still allowed the Matadors to convert at a 50 percent clip. Even with a 79-62 lead with 4:08 remaining in the contest, the game was still in reach for the visitors who following back to back three pointers by Drew Landon and another long range basket by Greene trailed 86-76 with 59 seconds left. Yet, that is as close as the Matadors would come to spoil an historic game for the Sun Devils.
Next up for Arizona State is perhaps their toughest home non-conference game, a meeting with Big East opponent DePaul Wednesday at 7 pm. The Blue Demons who escaped last year in the Old Spice Classic tournament with a 68-64 win over ASU.
“Our guys who were last year remember that DePaul beat us in a close hard fought game,” Sendek noted. “It’s obviously a big game, a Big East opponent coming into Wells Fargo. So we’re looking forward to having every seat in the house filled and maybe need a couple of shoehorns to get the last couple of people resting comfortably.”