TEMPE, Ariz. — Jordan Bachynski posted up on the right block, took an entry pass from Evan Gordon and maneuvered around a defender and into Arizona State history.
Bachynski’s short hook shot from the lane put the finishing touch on the first triple-double in school history in the Sun Devils’ 87-76 victory over Cal State Northridge at Wells Fargo Arena, a game in which the junior had 13 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocked shots while supplying yet another reason to believe that this ASU team could develop into something special.
“I played hard. I have great players around me who helped me do that,” Bachynski said.
The 7-foot-2 Bachynski does not pay much attention to his own numbers, but never let it be said that he cannot take coaching. Bachynski had eight rebounds and seven blocked shots at halftime, and assistant coach Larry Greer saw that the triple-double was in reach, telling Bachynski to “play your heart out.”
“I knew I had been doing a really good job on the blocked shots,” Bachynski said. “You can’t let that affect you, because if you start thinking about it, you are going to get nervous. And you are going to think, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t have enough blocked shots. What am I going to do?’ You can’t have that in your mind. I had to continue to play hard.”
The milestone came just five days after ASU coach Herb Sendek handed Bachynski an envelope following a practice session that contained a four-word message: 10 rebounds a game.
“That’s my goal — to do that,” Bachynski said. “And to do that, you have to be aggressive. I kind of slacked off on being aggressive, and I feel I was able to bring that tonight.”
It was a tour de force. Bachynski had two rebounds in the first 20 seconds of the second half to reach 10, and he blocked Northridge’s first, third and fourth field-goal attempts of the second half to hit 10 before two minutes had elapsed. His hook shot with 15:09 remaining gave him 11 points.
“‘J.B., he played his butt off,” Carrick Felix said.
ASU (8-1) is off to its best start since a James Harden-led team opened the 2008-09 season 12-1.
That Bachynski’s points came last underscored his impact on the game. Because of his intimidation underneath, Northridge hurried at least a half-dozen shots, several times missing layups while trying to rush the ball into the basket before Bachynski could swat it away.
“Having Jordan back there to save us on a number of occasions makes a world of difference,” Sendek said. “Any time you have a shot blocker like that, it is not just the ones he gets, but the opponent can’t help but start thinking about it a little bit. He’s also changing some other shots as well.”
With his 12 blocks, Bachynski took over the NCAA lead in both blocked shots (60) and average blocks per game (6.26). Kansas’ Jeff Withey, who had five blocks in a 90-54 victory over Colorado on Saturday, has 45 blocks and a 5.6 average.
Others at ASU have gotten close to a triple-double. Byron Scott had arguably the most complete game in school history with 33 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds against TCU in 1983. Forward Mark Becker was one rebound short against UCLA in 1988. Guard Curtis Millage was a rebound short against Memphis in a 2003 NCAA tournament game. Fat Lever, who had 45 triple-doubles in the NBA, never did it at ASU.
Bachynski is a self-taught shot blocker, and he has a great knack for timing. He can wait until the offensive player commits himself, then negate the move, sometimes taking the ball right out of the shooter’s hand. It is a skill he first displayed in a relief role when ASU played at Arizona during his freshman season.
“I think that is a great word for it. It is a knack,” Sendek said. “It is not something I think is easily taught. The great shot blockers that I have had a chance to be around simply have that knack. It is not something you typically show film on or try to teach someone to do. Some guys just have the knack and some guys do not.”
Added Bachynski: “A big part is not trying to block your man’s shot. Occasionally I’ll block the big man, but a lot of my blocks come off the help side. Not putting your body into them and reaching out. No one ever taught me how to shot block; that just happened naturally, I guess.”
Bachynksi almost had a triple-double in the first game of the season, finishing one block short. He also had seven blocks in another game and six in two others. He had three in ASU’s 71-63 victory over Hartford on Wednesday, playing only five minutes in the second half because Sendek rode hot freshman Eric Jacobsen, who had a career-high 16 points and six rebounds.
Bachynski said that served as motivation.
“I’m proud of Eric for stepping up. He did a phenomenal job. But I’m not going to lie: Not playing much in the second half, I took it personal.
“I’m happy for Eric and the great the job that he did. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be a good teammate. But that definitely is motivation. Any good team, you feed off that. Not playing is just motivation to get better.”