Sun Devils pick up first win of the year in season opener

The Sun Devil men's basketball team came out strong and never trailed as the Sun Devils opened the season by defeating Central Arkansas 79-64 at Wells Fargo Arena, Nov. 10.

This year's team had a different look than the previous. Former NBA coaches Eric Musselman and Larry Greer made their ASU debuts, and the starting lineup received a boost from last year's redshirt guards Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon as ASU built a solid lead early. Senior Carrick Felix opened the scoring for the Sun Devils and center Jordan Bachynski followed with a dunk to put ASU up 4-0 early.

ASU's defense held UCA scoreless for the first three minutes, and a layup by Gordon put the Sun Devils ahead 11-2. The first two points of Carson's Sun Devil career and two blocks by Bachynski put ASU ahead 17-8 near the midpoint of the first half. Bachynski ended up with nine blocks, which set the school record for blocks in a single game.

"As I play, I don't really keep track of my stats," Bachynski said. "I just play hard. It doesn't really matter if I have one block, two blocks, eight blocked shots. I don't pay attention to the scoreboard, or else you'll get a big head."

Central Arkansas gained steam as the first half progressed, capitalizing on a number of three-pointers to crawl back into the game. Despite three-pointers by Carson and forward Jonathan Gilling, UCA scored three times in a row and eventually tied the game 29-29.

ASU went ahead again on the ninth team foul committed by Central Arkansas and never relinquished the lead again. ASU went on to score 16 unanswered points to close out the first half, including a dunk from Bachynski with six seconds left and a three-pointer by Gordon as time expired.

Central Arkansas turned the ball over 16 times in the first half, compared to ASU's six. They also reached double digits in fouls and ASU took advantage of UCA's sloppy play, scoring 20 points off turnovers and entering halftime with a 49-31 lead.

Central Arkansas improved in the second half, outscoring ASU 33-30. The Sun Devil's lead proved too much for UCA to overcome, however. Chris Colvin led all ASU scorers in the second half with eight points, including a breakaway that put the Sun Devils ahead 73-53. Five of Bachynski's nine blocks came in the second half.

"Obviously it's good to start the season with a win," head coach Herb Sendek said. "Clearly on Nov. 10 all teams in the country will be a work in progress. Certainly we have a great deal of work ahead of us. But I thought there were a number of positive things today and it was good to get that first game under our belts."

After sitting out last season, Carson finally got the chance to show why he was the top in-state recruit last year. He finished the game with 15 points and five assists and provided a much-needed spark for the Sun Devils.

"Words can't really explain [how I felt], but I was just glad to be out there," Carson said. "I felt the excitement, I feel like a kid in a candy store. Seeing my family, the crowd being out there, my teammates excited for me, it felt good to be out there."

Bachynski led the way with 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting with 12 rebounds and fell one block short of a triple-double. Gilling led all shooters with 3 for 7 shooting on three-pointers and finished with 11 points. Gordon and Colvin also reached double digits in points.

ASU returns to action on Nov. 18, when they take on Florida A&M at 1 p.m.