Arizona basketball game notes: Wildcats neutralize ASU's Felix, Bachynski in win
Entering the rivalry game against Arizona State, the No. 7 Arizona men’s basketball team had yet to see a defensive anchor like the 7-foot-2 Jordan Bachynski. The Canadian-born center entered the game averaging 4.5 blocks per game, third most in the nation.
But, in the Wildcats’ first possession of the game, senior Solomon Hill drove straight into the heart of the lane and threw down a venomous dunk right in the face of Bachysnki. The aggressiveness of the slam wasn’t a mistake either; Hill said the dunk was something he thought about all week.
“That was the case, making a statement early,” said Hill, who had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. “Those guys made a lot of comments to the media this week, and it’s buying into the hype, buying into what the game is. But the guys have to understand that… every game should be like that.
“Those guys should be pumped up for every game they play because every game in the Pac-12 means something. This is just another game to us, we’re glad to get the ‘W’.”
As with any good rivalry, bulletin board quotes were exchanged during the week by both opponents.
Two comments in particular seemed to strike a nerve for the senior forward— Bachynski’s blocking ability and the confidence Carrick Felix had in defending Hill.
“Felix was saying how excited he was to guard me,” Hill said. “You think about (it), like, you can’t just get up one game and say, ‘OK I going to play great defense.’ He had a lot of opportunities this year to be a big time defender and we just wanted to show him otherwise.”
Bachynski’s defense wasn’t fully neutralized, as he still had three blocks in the game. The Wildcats didn’t have any fear in attacking, though, scoring 32 points in the paint and shooting 56 percent in the second half despite going 2-for-8 from three.
“He likes to set guys up for blocks, so you go right in his face and show him this is a different team,” Hill said. “This is not the team you guys have been playing here (this season).”
Containing Carrick Felix
Felix might have had his worst game of the season, as Arizona State’s second-leading scorer scored five points in playing the full 40 minutes. He shot 1-for-8, including 1-for-7 from three, and had seven turnovers. It wasn’t his matchup against Hill that got the attention though — it was an impressive defensive effort by freshman Brandon Ashley.
“(Ashley) had a great defensive game, his best defensive game since he’s been at Arizona,” guard Nick Johnson said. “We gave him the challenge; I know some people were doubting it a little at first. But coach Miller, to his credit, he trusted him and he gave him the confidence to go out there and play defense.”
Ashley has primarily been used as a power forward all season, but Miller placed him on the wing to guard Felix. Despite the ASU senior having the age advantage and experience playing guard at times, Ashley was able to use his size to contain Felix and completely take him out of the game.
“(Ashley) is used to playing against guys who are bigger, slower,” Hill said. “He’s going to have to play the wing position. Him getting a taste of it — not going for upfakes and really staying low in the position — really got him going.”
Miller has only used Ashley as a power forward or center this season, but plans to play him as a wing later in his Wildcat career. Saturday’s game was a taste of it, and while the freshman struggled offensively— scoring two points on 1-for-5 shooting— he proved he has the ability to guard the position.
“Brandon Ashley had his best defensive performance of his young career,” Miller said.
The Nitty, Gitty Parrom
With 10 second remaining in the first half, senior Kevin Parrom helped turn the momentum of the game, without even touching the ball. As freshman Jahii Carson drove to the hoop, Parrom planted his feet and took the charge. The play gave Carson his third foul, something that would prove crucial later in the second half.
“I think that’s the definition of Kevin,” Johnson said. “That’s the way he does stuff, he does everything — the nitty, gritty, offensive rebounds, taking charges, eyes on the floor. That’s why he’s so big for our team.”
Parrom was fairly quiet in the game, taking just four shots. His points came efficiently, though, as he still had eight points in the game. But his charge at the end of the half put Carson in foul trouble, and it really affected the short-handed Sun Devils.
Carson picked up a fourth foul with 9:50 remaining in the game. Since backup guard Chris Colvin was suspended for a violation of team rules, Arizona State struggled even more in Carson’s absence.
The Wildcats immediately went on a 11-0 run, ballooning a 47-44 lead into a double-digit advantage.
“(Carson) is the heart of the team…It’s a big drop-off when Jahii’s out of the game,” senior forward Solomon Hill said. “Evan (Gordon) was in a situation when he had to play point guard. He’s a great scorer but he’s a better off guard…. You don’t want to see (Carson) off the floor if you’re an ASU fan.”
The UA lead never went below nine points after the quick run, and it all goes back to the defensive play Parrom made in the waning moments of the first half.