This article was contributed by Jesse Borek.
For the second consecutive game, it was a career night for senior center Jordan Bachynski. Saturday afternoon saw the new PAC-12’s career blocked shots leader post his career-high in points with 26.
His most significant moment of the game was not on the offensive end, but came in the waning moments of what was almost a disastrous collapse against the Oregon Ducks, when he blocked the shot of Joseph Young who came swooping under the baseline at the buzzer. With his ninth blocked shot of the night, Bachysnki and the Sun Devils held on for a 74-72 victory.
Bachynski came tantalizingly close to a triple-double, falling just one rebound and one block shy of that impressive feat. Throughout the entirety of the game, Bachynski forced members of the Ducks to change their shot, in hopes of him not throwing it into the third row. Even when he was not attempting to block a shot, the threat was still there. He was not the only member of the Sun Devils to collect a double-double on this day though, as sophomore point guard Jahii Carson also accomplished this feat.
Although he struggled mightily from the field, going 2-of-10 and missing five of his 12 free throws, Carson contributed in a multitude of ways, ending the day with 11 points, in addition to his 12 rebounds and six assists.
The Sun Devils led 43-23 at the half and the field goal percentages for each respective club told the story. While the Ducks managed only a meager 25%, the Sun Devils came out firing on all cylinders, shooting over 68% en route to what seemed to be a convincing victory.
Things began to deteriorate in the second half, as Oregon’s offense refused to be held down for long. On the shoulders of Joseph Young, the team came roaring back, and after personally being held scoreless in the first half, Young went off for an obscene 29 points in the second half at the Wells Fargo Arena. To think back to the last time the Devils were burned like this in the second half is not all that difficult, as Oregon State Beaver Roberto Nelson did nearly the exact same things just two nights ago.
Thankfully, the Devils experienced a bit of déjà vu, as they staved off a late comeback and fierce pressure from the Ducks, a team that excels at a high-tempo game.
While the free throw percentage increased from the other night (62.5% to 74.4% tonight), bench scoring dropped from 11 points to a less than inspiring five points, all coming from former starter Jon Gilling. There is no question the bench is thin for the Devils, but in order to make a mad dash for meaningful March basketball, there will have to be some contributions from those that don’t play from the opening tip.
Most of the accolades will go to both Bachynski and Carson, and deservedly so, but without the play of Shaquille McKissic, the Devils may have watched this lead slip away for good. His quiet 15-point effort was precisely what Arizona State needed in order to weather the onslaught Oregon brought down the stretch.
Although he did not manage to make one of his seven three-point attempts on the evening, Jermaine Marshall once again proved himself to be the go-to man in the clutch. Spinning and twisting in the lane with under 15 seconds left, Marshall hit a contested shot to put the Devils up by three. After Joseph Young’s two made free throws on the other end, Marshall hit the back end of his two free throws, making it possible for Bachynsky to have his SportsCenter Top-10 moment block of Young.
After playing a second game in under 48 hours, the Devils now get to recover and prepare for what should be their biggest game of the season. The team took a major step forward towards the NCAA Tournament with their win tonight, improving to 7-4 in the conference, and getting their 18th win overall.
Next Friday on primetime television, it will be the #2 Arizona Wildcats (22-1, 9-1) traveling to Tempe to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils (18-6, 7-4). The last time the two locked up, it was not a pretty sight for those that cheer for the maroon and gold, but there will undoubtedly be a frenzied atmosphere next Friday evening when the arch nemesis Wildcats roll into town.