All eyes were on redshirt freshman guard Jahii Carson’s collegiate debut heading into the ASU men’s basketball team’s season opener, but Saturday ended up being junior center Jordan Bachynski’s night instead.
Bachynski’s 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting, 12 rebounds and nine blocks helped give the Sun Devils (1-0) a 79-64 wire-to-wire victory over Central Arkansas.
Bachynski’s nine blocks are the most in one game in ASU history, and he was one rejection shy of becoming the first Sun Devil to record a triple-double.
“Honestly, as I play, I don’t really keep track of my stats,” Bachynski said. “I just play hard. It doesn’t really matter if I have one block, two blocks, or eight blocked shots, I just played hard. I don’t pay attention to the scoreboard.”
He added that playing in a man-to-man defense contributed toward a lot of his defensive success.
“I’ve played man-to-man most of my career, so I’m more comfortable in man,” Bachynski said. “It keeps me close to the hoop so I can get those blocked shots. I think that’s a big reason why I was able to get those tonight. I don’t have to close out to the corner as much.”
Bachynski’s big night shouldn’t be a knock to Carson, who received a thunderous applause during the pregame introductions. Carson added 14 points and a game-high five assists in his first game as an eligible player.
“Words can’t really explain (how I felt tonight), but I was just glad to be out there tonight,” Carson said. “I felt excitement. I feel like a kid in a candy store for the most part.”
The Sun Devils came out in the first half strong and led by as much as 18 points, but a Central Arkansas (0-1) surge limited the lead to two near the bottom of the period. The run prompted coach Herb Sendek to call a timeout in order to regain control of the game.
“I just gave them a hard time (during the timeout),” Sendek said. ”I just didn’t like how we were playing. I thought we were being soft with the ball, playing cute on offense and not making each other better. (Central Arkansas) was beating us to loose balls and getting offensive rebounds. That’s not Sun Devil basketball.”
ASU quickly responded, and the Sun Devils closed out the half on a 16-0 run that spanned less than three minutes.
The Sun Devils received some extra help from the backcourt outside of Carson. Senior guard Chris Colvin added nine points and five assists. Junior guard Evan Gordon, who also made his ASU debut on Saturday, chipped in 14 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
“(Gordon) definitely takes the pressure off of me,” Carson said. “Guys can’t pressure the basketball on me, they can’t trap me as much, because he’s a ball handler as well. He also hits open jump shots, and is able to get my open shots. He makes my game a little easier to play.”
Sendek said he was impressed with the team’s focus heading into the game. With ASU’s next game being eight days away against Florida A&M, Sendek understands that the Sun Devils must stay prepared every night, and that the team needs to keep track of what it’s needs to improve on from its first game.
“There is so much that we will be able to digest from tonight,” Sendek said. “We’ve only been practicing for four weeks; we don’t even have everything in yet. We certainly don’t have everything polished yet, so we need practice time.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org