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November 26, 2013

ASU stays perfect with win over Marquette

There were flying glow sticks, loose elbows, bloody jerseys and police interventions on Monday evening at Wells Fargo Arena. Oh yeah, there was a lot of good basketball too.

When it was all said and done, the only thing that mattered was Arizona State beating Marquette 79-77 in front of 9,155 strong.

"It's a great win for us, but like we even said last week, it's one game of the 32 that we are guaranteed," ASU head coach Herb Sendek said. "A win like this certainly doesn't mean anyone is going to coronate us and if we would have lost, it wouldn't have been our demise either. It's a long season and believe it or not, we've played six games. We've had some hard-fought games already and it's not even Thanksgiving yet."

Earning its sixth straight victory, the Sun Devils improved to 6-0 on the year. No. 25 Marquette dropped to 3-2.

What started as a double-digit lead for ASU through most of the first half came down to the final seven seconds after senior Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall missed the second free throw after making the first on a one and one.

With ASU up 79-77 and Marquette with no timeouts left, the Golden Eagles flew the basketball up the court, with Marquette's junior guard Derrick Wilson trying to go in for the quick score to tie up the game.

Wilson had only one obstacle standing in his way.

Seven-foot-two senior ASU center Jordan Bachynski was ready, just as he'd been since the opening tip.

With Wilson going up for the game-tying layup, Bachynski slid across the lane, jumped up and swatted the ball away, sealing the win for ASU. It was a fitting conclusion given that Bachynski had seven blocks on the night and altered a number of other shots near the basket.

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

As the stands erupted, Bachynski's teammates flooded the court, swarming the big man and celebrating ASU's first 6-0 start since the 1980-81 season.

Bachynski's 14 points, and 11 rebounds -- most of which came after he was forced to switch from his normal No. 13 to No. 42 after a bloody finger soiled his jersey -- kept his season-long streak of double-doubles alive.

Marshall also came up big in the second half for the Sun Devils, finishing with 21 points on 7 of 13 shooting from the field.

Despite playing only 33 minutes because of foul trouble, sophomore point guard Jahii Carson led the team with 23 points on 9 of 17 shooting from the field and 3 of 5 from behind the arc.

Marquette cut its 11 point deficit to one point in just over three minutes early in the second half and the home fans white knuckled their way through the game's conclusion.

After Carson picked up his third foul early in the second half, Sendek chose to leave his pre-season All-American point guard out on the court for the remainder of the game, a critical decision with the Sun Devils facing broader foul trouble.

"He (Sendek) knew that it was kind of a ticky-tack," Carson said. "He knew that I was smart enough to keep myself out of trouble with the fourth foul and with the big guy (Bachynski) down here, any time a guy comes in the line, I know I got protection back there so I knew I could play a little soft on him."

For at least one fan, the tight second half was too much too take, as several glow sticks rained down onto the court twice in quick succession after unfavorable ASU calls, leading to a technical foul and police arresting a student. Worse yet for ASU, it came at the same time as Marshall got a technical foul for taunting after a made basket.

Marquette only made two of the technical foul shots to cut its deficit to two points, 58-56. Several minutes later it would take a one point lead twice on traded baskets before five straight Carson points gave ASU a lead it wouldn't relinquish at the half's midway point.

After Sendek saw halfway through the second half that Thomas had the hot hand, he instructed freshman wing Egor Koulechov to chase him over the top of screens and it made a difference down the stretch.

Koulechov, in his second straight start, played 37 minutes, finishing with nine points and six rebounds. Marquette on three separate occasions knocked ASU's lead down to one point, but it could never get back on top.

While Bachnyski made the huge defensive stop to end the game, Carson was the one who made the first basket of the night, a three-pointer from the top of the key with 19:19 to go in the first half.

After Marquette scored a quick field goal, ASU took control and went on a 14-3 run in the game's first four and a half minutes, lead by Carson's eight points.

Playing the up-tempo game it was missing against Bradley last time out, ASU looked like the dominant team from all angles on the court in the stretch.

"I think it was huge," Carson said of the early run. "The momentum boost that the crowd gave us, the energy we gave each other. Coming out on a lead like that, it's tough for a team to come back and I think we maintained our composure. We got a little relaxed in the second half, but we looked upon each other right here and we came out with a [win]."

Despite appearing to be the overwhelmingly dominant team, ASU held only a 10-point lead at halftime, despite shooting 15 of 28 from the field and 6 of 15 from behind the three-point arc.

A big reason for the mere 10-point lead was the absence of Carson after leaving the game after he picked up his second personal foul with 7:55 left in the first half.

"I was struggling with whether I should roll the dice and keep him on the bench," Sendek said. "What tipped the scale was the thought that if he picked up his third in the first half. That could really not be good for us. That was the toughest decision in respect to the foul situation."

A reason for the 10-point ASU lead at all was difference in three-point shooting.

Marquette came into the game shooting 13 of 71 overall, 18.3 percent, from three-point range. In the first half, the Golden Eagles were 2 of 9.

ASU has been dominant in that category of the game for the past six games, making 61 three-pointers so far this season.

However, Marquette battled back in the second half, took advantage of ASU's three turnovers in the opening five minutes, and made three straight three-pointers after making only two in the first half.

One huge breakdown on defense was ASU's containment in the second half of Marquette's senior guard Jake Thomas.

Thomas was 0 of 4 from the field in the field half, including 0 of 3 from three-point range.

In the second half, Thomas started to heat up and ended the night with 16 points, going 5 of 14 from the field, but most importantly 5 of 12 from three-point range.

It was just one short of what his team needed.


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