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November 26, 2013

Bachynski at his best in Marquette win

When it was over, Arizona State senior center Jordan Bachynski stood at center court and sent an echo ringing throughout Wells Fargo Arena for each of his team's six wins.

It was only fitting because Bachynski answered the bell right from the opening tip for the Sun Devils, eventually recording his sixth straight double-double Monday night with 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks en route to a 79-77 win over Marquette University.

The Sun Devils improved to 6-0 and Bachynski now has more double-doubles this season than he did in his first three seasons in Tempe all together.

Through these six games, the 7-foot-2, 248 pound senior from Calgary, Alberta, is averaging 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 4.4 blocks per game.

It's a dramatic jump from last year, when Bachynski averaged 9.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game.

"Definitely happy with how far I've come," Bachynski said. "I still feel I have a ways to go. Coaches have been amazing in the offseason just working with me and playing in Canada over the summer has really just helped me out. I'm playing with a new confidence that I never had before and that's the biggest thing for any basketball player. In practice I can make those jump hooks but coming into the game is a whole other animal. Unless you have confidence I think that's the toughest thing because it's tough to teach."

Monday was Bachynski's second impressive performance against teams with big and athletic frontcourts in a seven day span. Last Tuesday he was 8 of 12 from the field with 15 rebounds and four blocks in an 86-80 win over UNLV.

While all seven blocks were essential to the game's outcome, the last and most pivotal block came in the waning moments.

Coming down the right side of the court with 7.4 seconds left and his team trailing by two points following a missed free throw by ASU senior Jermaine Marshall, Marquette forward Jamil Wilson drove the lane to go for the tie. Dribbling towards the basket from the wing, Wilson stopped just short of a layup and attempted what appeared to be, for a slight second, a decent looking short pull-up jumper.

The second didn't last long though as Bachynski slid over from the opposite side of the paint and emphatically blocked Wilson's shot at the buzzer, giving the Sun Devils the victory.

"We knew we had to play heads-up basketball and play smart," Bachynski said. "We were going to key on their shooters because we knew they had to get two to tie and three to win. I knew that as he was coming out of the corner that he was going to take it so I just leaked over and jumped, prayed and blocked the shot."

Additionally, Bachynski had even more of a defensive effort than the seven blocks would tell. Playing a remarkable 39 minutes, he only committed one foul and there was a clear defensive presence that Bachynski established.

As the game wore on, the Golden Eagles attacked the paint less and less as a result of Bachynski altering no fewer than double digit shot attempts, a key factor that will never show up on a stat sheet.

It was perhaps in the one minute Bachynski wasn't on the floor in which his presence was most appreciated. ASU head coach Herb Sendek subbed out Bachynski for sophomore Eric Jacobsen and Marquette quickly attacked the 6-foot-10 post player, scoring in the paint on back to back possessions.

After a following timeout, Bachynski was back on the floor. He'd never leave again.

Bachynski was also a force on the offensive end. His 14 points came on 6 of 8 shooting, mostly quick-score dunks and layups off nice assists or offensive rebound put backs.

Under Sendek, Bachynski isn't the only center to increase his level of play from his junior to senior year. Center Jeff Pendergraph - now Jeff Ayers, a member of the San Antonio Spurs -- also had his best season in his last year.

In 2007-2008, Ayres averaged 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for the Sun Devils. In the 2008-09 season, Ayres averaged 14.5 points and 8.3 rebounds.

Eric Boateng, in the following year and a lot more minutes, developed into a quality senior post player with averages of 8.8 points and 7.2 rebounds.

The dramatic improvement and success that Bachynski has demonstrated thus far is something that Sendek has marveled at repeatedly in recent weeks.

"I've been saying it all year and I think at some point the national media will pick up on it as well," Sendek said. "If there is a more improved player over the span of these last four years, I don't know who it is, but I know Jordan has to be in that conversation. Just take it from a conditioning standpoint. At no point previously in his career could he have played in a game this physical and combative for 39 minutes. He would need to come out every few minutes. He has so improved himself physically. I thought Jordan was just terrific today and the numbers he's posting, you know, they're hard to beat."


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