TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski was the appropriate choice to ring the on-court victory bell Friday night. He ushered in a new defensive record.
With six more blocked shots in ASU’s 88-60 victory over Idaho State at Wells Fargo Arena, the 7-foot-2 Bachynski passed Mario Bennett for the Sun Devils’ career lead in blocked shots with 194.
Bachynski has done almost all of that in the last season and a half, benefiting greatly from ASU’s move to a man-to-man defense when Jahii Carson arrived to play the point last season. The change from a matchup zone enabled Bachynski to stay closer to the basket rather than make an occasional jump to the perimeter.
At the same time, Bachynski has matured physically and gotten back into a rhythm after an injury his senior season in high school followed by a two-year LDS mission. He had 35 blocked shots in his first 41 games with the Sun Devils. He has 159 in his last 51.
“Wouldn’t any of us be hard-pressed to find a more improved college basketball player over the last four years than Jordan Bachynski,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “… We really started at the beginning. I think it is incredible the way he has continued to develop.”
Bachynski, a senior, passed Bennett with his fourth block of the night less than two minutes into the second half, when he redirected a shot from Jeffrey Solarin all the way to the midcourt line, where Shaquille McKissic turned it into a basket at the other end. Bennett had 191 blocks in his four seasons under Bill Frieder, from 1991-95.
Bachynski set a Pac-12 record with 120 blocks last season, and he also had the first triple-double in school history when he had a school-record 12 blocks against Cal-Northridge.
Shot-blocking has always been a part of his game, but not in the way you might think.
“Growing up, I was really, really undersized. Not stature-wise but like width-wise,” Bachynski said. “I was really light in high school, and guys were shorter than me so they kind of boxed me out and got deep post position, so I had to learn a way to play defense and still be light. I had to develop that.”
Bachynski also has turned into a double-double machine in ASU’s 3-0 start after getting 10 points and 10 rebounds in only 20 minutes Friday, as another blowout victory gave Sendek a chance to look at his depth.
Carson led ASU with 19 points and had two assists, one steal and no turnovers in 25 minutes. He gave the Sun Devils a scare about eight minutes into the game, when he left the floor with a limp after he drove around a defender, made a quick jump stop and twisted to pass back to a shooter on the wing. Carson flexed his left leg as he ran back down the floor and was removed on the next possession, but the injury was nothing serious, and he returned to the game two minutes later. Carson made all three of his 3-pointers and is 6 for 11 from distance this season.
“Jahii is playing very unselfish basketball, and he is really setting the table for his teammates. He’s doing what great players do: helping guys be better,” Sendek said.
Jermaine Marshall had 17 points, also making three 3-pointers, and had three rebounds and two blocked shots. The bench had 30 points in 91 minutes, with freshmen Egor Koulechov and Chance Murray leading the way. Koulechov, a small forward, had nine points, five rebounds and four steals in 20 minutes. Murray had eight points and three rebounds in 25 minutes.
“Our young guys really helped us,” Sendek said. “Egor was all over the court. He played with a lot of energy. That wasn’t a one-time thing tonight. He does it in practice. He’s around the ball. Chance has given us great minutes.”
But the night belonged to Bachynski, who was aware he was close to the record but did not know he has broken it until assistant coach Eric Musselman told him about it during a timeout. Musselman reminded Bachynski that there have been a lot of good big men to have come through the program: Bennett, Alton Lister, et al.