ASU men’s basketball overcomes size, conquers UC Irvine 74-61

For the first time in senior Jordan Bachynski’s career, the 7-foot-3 ASU center wasn’t the tallest player on the court on Saturday.

What’s even more uncharacteristic for the ASU men’s basketball team is that the Sun Devils were held to 42 percent from the field.

ASU (11-2) overcame its cold shooting and size mismatch as the Sun Devils defeated UC Irvine 74-61 to close out their non-conference schedule.

ASU senior forward Shaquielle McKissic’s hot stretch carried over to Saturday as he had 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting and four rebounds. The transfer from Edmonds Community College (Wash.) is averaging 14 points over the last four games.

ASU redshirt sophomore point guard Jahii Carson added 16 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Junior forward Jonathan Gilling hit three 3-pointers toward his total of 13 points and also had five rebounds and five assists.

The Sun Devils had trouble all game containing UC Irvine’s frontcourt, which featured 7-foot-6 freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye. The Anteaters’ duo of Ndiaye and junior forward Will Davis II combined for 26 points and 22 rebounds.

Despite a rough shooting performance, Bachynski still persevered against Ndiaye as he had nine points, 10 rebounds and six blocks.

UC Irvine (7-7) shot 37.6 percent from the 3-point line coming into the game, but the Sun Devils held the Anteaters to just 4-of-17 (24 percent) from the perimeter. ASU also forced UC Irvine to turn the ball over 19 times.

The lead bounced back and forth until the Sun Devils went on an 11-0 run near the bottom of the first half to go into halftime with a 35-23 lead.

“I thought our best of defense was the later stages of the first half,” coach Herb Sendek said.

ASU steadily handled the lead in the second half, but UC Irvine cut the deficit to six points at 62-54 with four minutes left in the game. The Sun Devils went on a 7-0 run to escape with the lead for good.

ASU begins Pac-12 play when it hosts both Washington and Washington State on Jan. 2 and Jan. 5, respectively. Sendek hopes the Sun Devils’ performance in the non-conference schedule will help their chances for an NCAA Tournament bid.

“I wish we were 13-0 and I wish we could have two of those do over again,” Sendek said. “Given the schedule we’ve played, we have a good non-conference resume that we hope serves us well when March comes up.”

Reach the reporter at jnacion@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Josh_Nacion.