Bachynski’s foul trouble costly in ASU’s loss

TEMPE, Ariz. — Coming off his first career double-double in Thursday’s win over Utah, Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski figured to factor prominently into his team’s attempt to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Thanks to immediate foul trouble, however, the sophomore logged just 14 minutes Saturday and ASU never established a rhythm in a 63-49 home loss to Colorado.

“He never really got into the flow,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said of Bachynski. “His foul trouble changed some things tonight.”

Teams deal with players in foul trouble all the time, but Bachynski’s came at a particularly bad time given that’s he played his best basketball over the past three weeks. With leading scorer Trent Lockett still finding his legs following a six-game absence due to an ankle injury, the Sun Devils needed Bachynski on Saturday if they were to gain any momentum for the season’s final stretch.

Just four minutes and 20 seconds into the game, Bachynski picked up his second foul and headed to the bench. He had already collected three rebounds but didn’t return in the first half.

“Because the game was relatively close and tight, I elected to save him until the second half,” Sendek said.

ASU trailed by only seven at halftime, so saving Bachynski seemed a wise decision. Any benefit of that strategy went out the window quickly in the second half, though, as less than a minute in, Bachynski registered his third foul.

This time, Sendek decided to take a risk. Freshman Jonathan Gilling had just nailed a 3-pointer to cut Colorado’s lead to four points, and Sendek chose to leave Bachynski in the game.

“I rolled the dice and gambled because we were trailing, and he no sooner picked up his fourth,” Sendek said. “Then I played him with relatively a lot of time left in the game, because at that point there was no sense in saving anybody.”

Less than 90 seconds into the second half, Bachynski found himself on the brink of fouling out. Sendek brought him back to the bench, where he would remain until the 12:37 mark. But at that point, it was too late to make an impact. He finished with two points, five rebounds and a block.

Though Sendek accurately pointed to 18 turnovers as his team’s biggest problem Saturday, Bachynski’s absence prevented ASU from establishing its game plan early.

“He just has been a big part of what we’ve been doing the last few weeks and playing really well,” Sendek said. “He really was never in the flow of the game, battling severe, immediate foul trouble.”

Bachynski has been at his best since ASU’s first meeting with Utah on Jan. 21. After scoring 10 points in that game, he averaged 11.2 points and seven rebounds per game over the next five contests. In that six-game span, he was shooting 71 percent from the field, a significant improvement over the 46.2 percent he shot in the first 18 games.

It would be hyperbolic to say Bachynski’s limitation Saturday cost ASU a chance at a much-needed winning streak. ASU also didn’t take care of the ball, shot 35.8 percent and gave up 10 offensive rebounds. There’s certainly plenty to explain the loss, but there’s no doubt the Sun Devils missed Bachynski’s hot hand, as without it they just never got going.

“He’s been playing well — he’s really helped our team lately,” Lockett said. “I think not having him in there hurt us a little bit. He’s got to play smarter, and he knows that. He’ll be fine next game.”