The Morning After: ASU keeps NCAA Tournament hopes alive

A look back at ASU’s 78-60 win over UCLA Saturday:

 

March Madness impact

I went as far as to say this game was a must-win for ASU if it wanted to make the NCAA Tournament. The Sun Devils lacked wins over quality teams and this was their last big game at home. They have three big games left on the schedule: at Colorado, at UCLA and the season-finale at UA. They needed to win two or three of those games depending on how other bubble teams closed out the season.

And they got this one. It’s easily ASU’s best performance and biggest win this season. Given the way UCLA defeated UA Thursday, ASU dominated most of the game. The Sun Devils played once again without senior guard Chris Colvin and the starters logged heavy minutes Thursday in overtime against USC.

 

Felix’s consistency

Senior wing Carrick Felix is having a wonderful season. He’s finally put it all together, and he’s really been the rock for this team. He played 44 minutes against USC and on a quick turnaround locks up freshman forward Shabazz Muhammad and collects another double-double. Felix had 23 points and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes while Muhammd was limited to just 18 points.

Six of Muhammad’s 18 points came during a flurry of fast break buckets late in the second half. Felix contested nearly every pump fake and every shot. ASU coaching staff had a nice game plan bringing in redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson as the help man when Muhammad and freshman guard Jordan Adams would drive to the basket or come off a curl.

“I was just trying to play him straight up and just contain him,” Felix said. “He’s a very good player and a very good scorer. I just wanted to go out there and play hard defense and do it for my team. We all played team defense. Jahii helped me out a lot when he would go to the basket and curl. Just having Jahii there for a little stunt or a little help, it was good. We definitely won this game by our defense.”

The effort he plays with was witnessed on the last play when he blocked freshman guard Jordan Adams’ layup attempt. Watch how much ground Felix covered when Adams stole the ball.

 

Bachynski’s return

Junior center Jordan Bachynski hasn’t played well the past three games, but he came up big Saturday.

When he was collecting triple-doubles and averaging a double-double in non-conference, there was a question as to how Bachynski would play against conference foes. He’s been inconsistent since ASU started Pac-12 play but this game will be a big confidence booster for Bachynski. He had 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks. That was probably the best display of footwork from Bachynski as a Sun Devil. The way he moved in the paint created very high percentage shots around the rim.

“I knew I would have a slight advantage in the post against the Wear twins,” Bachynski said. “I’m taller and bigger than them. I knew that if I got it, they were going to come and double team me. I knew that if I wanted to score, I’d have to make a quick move. That’s what I did in the first half, and in the second half, they were coming even faster. I knew what I had to do. It makes a big difference. That just comes down to me understanding.”

 

Carson & Gilling dropping dimes

It’s expected no matter how Carson shoots the ball in a game, he will always be the floor general. His teammates will always benefit from his vision, and it’s slipping under the radar just like Felix’s consistent play this season. Those are two givens at an ASU basketball game based off 20 games played.

Sophomore forward, or point-forward, Jonathan Gilling has found different ways to impact the game this season. He wanted to branch out and show he’s more than just a spot-up three-point specialist. There’s always groans and moans when Gilling’s trigger finger isn’t itchy during home games, but he’s finding his teammates and grabbing rebounds. He had seven points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. This week during the LA sweep, he finished with 23 rebounds and 14 assists.

“His game is progressing in a way where he doesn’t have to make shots to have a really positive impact on winning,” coach Herb Sendek said. “A year ago, his game probably said, ‘If I make shots, I’m probably going to really impact winning.’ And now, like today, he didn’t really make a lot of shots, but he clearly impacted winning. He’s growing as a player.”

 

Reach the reporter at mtesfats@asu.edu