Bachynski Shines in Sun Devil Win

Thursday might have marked the return of junior Trent Lockett to Arizona State's lineup, but make no mistake about it, the night belonged to big man Jordan Bachynski. Riding the performance of their talented sophomore center, the Sun Devils notched their fourth conference victory with a 57-52 win over Utah at Wells Fargo Arena.

The Sun Devils, losers of five of their last six games, were looking for revenge against a Utah squad who handed them one of their more lopsided defeats earlier this season in Salt Lake City. ASU was able to overcome a slow start offensively and led by as many as fourteen in the second half before having to hold on down the stretch, narrowly escaping with the win.

"I think we all just played together and played hard," said Carrick Felix, who led the team in scoring with 15 points, after game. "We spent a lot of time on the scouting report and just knowing everything and I think we played well today and just executed. A lot of guys stepped up."

While the Sun Devils had a number of contributors Thursday, the improved play of Bachynski shined most prominently. Bachynski led the way for the Sun Devils on both ends of the floor, registering his first career double-double with 11 points and 12 twelve rebounds, to go along with 4 blocked shots.

"Two highlights are the continued progress of Jordan Bachynski, and really since we played Utah in Salt Lake, he's kind of been making some obvious strides," said Sendek after the game about Bachynski. "And the one thing I'd tell you about him is through all the ups and downs, through the learning curve, he has just been tremendously positive. He's always in a good mood. He always shows up with a smile on his face. He encourages his teammates.

"He's one of those guys that has two feet in, and that's not easy to do sometimes, when it's not going as well as you'd like for yourself, personally," he added. "And then obviously the other highlight is the return of Trent tonight."

For the Sun Devils, the early stages of Thursday's contest looked similar to the offensive woes that plagued the team on the road last week, as they struggled to get any sort of production. Trailing 13-8 nearly halfway through the period, they were able to generate momentum on the defensive end, sparked by a pair of Bachynski blocked shots, before eventually going on a 15-0 run, giving them a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way.

"I felt like we were (active), especially in that stretch there in the first half," said Lockett on the defensive play. "I felt like every time down they were struggling to get a shot, calling timeouts and stuff like that. I feel like you can build on stuff like that. When you see a team call timeout because they can't score, that gets you fired up, and then you can continue to build on that throughout the entire game.

"Coming back to one of my favorite ideas from Gandhi is you can't do one thing in your life without having it affect another," said Bachynski. "It's just like in basketball, you can't play hard on the defensive end without it affecting the offensive end. I really feel like that's how we played today as a team. When we made defensive stops, that's when we gained momentum, that's when we gained energy."

For Bachynski, who started the season on the bench as a reserve and did not get a chance to play in the team's first game of the season per coach's decision, the past couple of weeks have been a coming out party of sorts. In the team's last six games, dating back to their humiliating 64-43 defeat January 21st against Utah, Bachynski has been averaging 11 points, 7 rebounds and just over 2 blocks per game, creating an imposing presence for the Sun Devils in the paint.

"We've always contended that he has the talent quotient," commented Sendek. "He has some special gifts and talents, things that nobody can teach. I think as much as anything for Jordan, it's just going through that learning curve and gaining experience and understanding exactly what it takes. I think that light is beginning to shine more brightly for him and he's starting to really make incredible progress."

"It being my second year, in the beginning I thought I'd be a lot further than I was," remarked Bachynski. "Again it comes back to what Coach Sendek said; I needed a little more time, a little more experience, a little more maturity in order to figure out my game, not only physically, but mentally as well.

"I'm learning that that first look isn't necessarily the best look; to wait it out and see what the defense gives me."

The way he's been playing lately though, especially given the absence of Lockett, has been a breath of fresh air for the Sun Devils. Bachynski, who told Sendek weeks ago that he needs to play more like an animal, has lived up to his end of things, filling a void that the Sun Devils have had in the paint since Jeff Pendergraph left the program.

"It goes back all the way to growing up, but I guess the most recent time when I applied it and when I really started believing it was right before the last Utah game when I met with my mission president," commented Bachynski on his change in style. "We drove around for a while and we just talked and he just told me I was being too nice on the court, that I needed to play hard, play like an animal."

Overshadowed by the performance of Bachynski was the return of Trent Lockett, who after missing the team's last six games with an ankle injury, returned to action Thursday. Despite missing three weeks and admitting to being rusty, Lockett chipped in 12 points and 6 rebounds in the winning effort.

"It's going to be a process, obviously I haven't played in three weeks," said Lockett afterwards. "So like I said, it's going to be a process, but it just felt good being out there tonight."

Despite requiring treatment on his ankle up until tipoff, Lockett still led the team in minutes played, logging 36.

"It'll be interesting when the medicine wears off, but I'm sure I'll be good to go on Saturday," he added. "I mean, it's going to be sore, but I was fine."

The soreness will surely pass, but for now the Sun Devils can relax after notching a much needed win. For Arizona State, it was only their second win on a Thursday since the start of conference play, putting them in a rare position to earn a weekend sweep of their Pac 12 foes, as Colorado pays a visit to Tempe on Saturday.

"It makes it a little bit easier to get up on Friday," exclaimed a relieved Sendek."That morning after a loss is always kind of a tough period, you know, you might need an extra cup of coffee. It's the same thing though after any game. You can turn it around and hear the birds a little more clearly on a Sunday morning if you're able to win on Saturday."

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