TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State proved something more about itself Sunday.
Not only did the Sun Devils post their most impressive victory of the season, 65-56 over Colorado to end the first weekend of Pac-12 play, they did it even as the Buffaloes took away most of the scoring and penetrating opportunities for point guard supreme Jahii Carson.
While 6-foot-6 Spencer Dinwiddie and a paint-clogging Colorado defense held ASU leading scorer Carson to a season-low five points, the contributions from the rest enabled the Sun Devils to take up the slack while digging their way out of a 17-4 hole at the onset.
“It took some positive contributions from a lot of different guys,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said.
Jordan Bachynski toyed with another triple-double — 16 points, nine blocked shots, seven rebounds — and Jonathan Gilling had his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Carrick Felix led the Sun Devils with 20 points and added eight rebounds, and Chris Colvin came off the bench to get nine points, five assists and four rebounds in 31 minutes.
“It’s a common theme on our team. Guys doing what they need to. Playing their roles,” Bachynski said.
Sendek would not label it the biggest victory of the season for ASU (13-2, 2-0), saying “I’m always of the belief that whatever win you are celebrating right now seems like the best.”
Yet it certainly was. Colorado (10-4, 0-2) entered the game with an RPI ranking of six, one spot ahead of undefeated Arizona, and it was the kind of resume-building victory that looks good when the NCAA tournament selection committee looks for reasons to believe in March. Victories over Arkansas in Las Vegas and at Texas Tech were the Sun Devils’ most notable coming in, and one of their two losses was to DePaul here.
“(Colorado) is a great team, and I definitely think this was a huge win for us,” Bachynski said.
“They won the Pac last year. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with this year. For us to be able to step up and play like we did and come away with the win … it wasn’t an overtime win, so I think that is a little bit better than our friends down south.”
Colorado was playing four days after a missed call led to an 92-83 overtime loss to Arizona in Tucson. Referees waved off an apparent game-winning 3-pointer by Sabatino Chen at the second-half buzzer although TV replays seemed to indicate the ball had left Chen’s hand before time expired.
“This result has nothing to do with what happened the other night. We were ready to go. The way we came out of the box proved that. It’s about a 40-minute basketball game. The other night we played a good game for 37 minutes. Tonight a good game for about 11. That ain’t good enough,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said.
Boyle called Bachynski the most important Sun Devil contributor, and it would have been hard to argue. Bachynski, 7-foot-2, had seven of his blocked shots in the second half, when ASU passed Colorado for good on a Felix 3-pointer for a 44-41 lead with 10:16 remaining and pulled away from there, scoring 24 of the final 39 points. Bachynski, who has 69 blocked shots this season, set an ASU record for blocked shots in a conference game, and his intimidating presence was the main reason Colorado was 10-of-38 from the field in the second half, 26.3 percent. The Buffaloes hit 35.3 percent from the field in the game. After making eight of their first 12 shots in their 17-4 start, they were 16 of 56 (28.5) percent in the final 30 minutes.
“Block city, man. The second half defensively was the best we did all year. We buckled down on our assignments and really nipped it in the bud. It’s about the little things we had to do. We played hard,” Felix said.
“He was the difference in the game,” Boyle said of Bachynski.
“I thought we would be able to get around him, because he is not the most mobile big guy. But he is so big and he is so long and he clogs that lane up. We were going to have to get around him and get to the rim, or we were going to have to stop and make pull-up jump shots. We couldn’t do either, and that’s why our offense really struggled,” Boyle said.
It took ASU 10 minutes to find its rhythm, but once the Sun Devils recovered, the moved inexorably forward. They were kick-started by an unlikely source, sophomore transfer Bo Barnes, who had played 43 minutes in 10 games without scoring this season after sitting out last season following a transfer from Hawaii. But Barnes made a 3-pointer from the left wing to start ASU on a run in which it scored on 13 of its final 15 first-half possessions.
Bachynski had eight points, including two dunks, in that run, and Felix also had eight points, making two 3-pointers. Colvin had four assists in the final 8 ½ minutes of the first half, setting up dunks by Bachynski (two) and Felix. Bachynski and Felix had 10 points apiece in the first half. Colorado took a 33-30 lead when Dinwiddie scored on a baseline move with one second left in the half.
After taking a 44-43 lead, ASU scored the next 11 points, a stretch in which Carson had his only basket of the game and Colvin made three free throws. It was 55-43 when Felix made a free throw with 3:30 left.
“We definitely knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew we had to stay calm and composed. Keep chopping wood. We knew it was a long game,” Felix said.