Jones continues to have breakout sophomore season

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Arkansas guard C.J. Jones looks to pass during a game against Colorado State on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas guard C.J. Jones looks to pass during a game against Colorado State on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— At one point last year, Arkansas freshman C.J. Jones may have wondered if his play in Spain in the summer of 2016 was just a dream.

Jones (6-5, 175) averaged a team-high 21 points in three exhibition basketball games during the Spain tour, but played just six minutes per game and scored just 2.4 points per outing as a freshman.

Jones has already played more minutes this season (157) than he did all of last season (126) and is providing consistent play his sophomore season.

Jones tied his career-high as both he and Jaylen Barford scored 19 points and freshman center Daniel Gafford added 14 points and 6 rebounds in Arkansas’ 92-66 win over Colorado State Tuesday night before 7,882 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

“I am very comfortable and very confident,” Jones said. “When Daryl (Macon) came out with the injury against North Carolina, my confidence just boosted from there and it has carried on to these other games.”

Jones, averaging 12 points game this season, was 7 of 9 from the field, 3 of 5 from 3-point range and 2 of 2 from the free throw line while also dishing out two assists on Tuesday night for the Razorbacks (6-2).

His trio of 3-pointers were all several feet behind the arc.

“I like to shoot three or four feet behind the 3-point line because it is easier for me actually,” Jones said. “If I am close to the line, I think I’ll miss it, but if I back far enough I think I will make it more than if I am closer.”

Jones scored 12 points against North Carolina, 19 against UConn and 11 points against Houston in the last three games coming into Tuesday.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson believes it’s been a combination of things that have got Jones going.

“I think opportunity and the experience of going through last year,” Anderson said. “He put some time in during the off-season and I just think he is getting a little bit more seasoning. He is playing with a lot more confidence.

“You’ve also got to remember that people are just zeroing on on Daryl and Barford and a lot of people think that is how you stop the Razorbacks. This is how we have got to be - where if you try to guard those guys real hard than we have some other guys.

“…I think it is big. To me the more weapons you have, people just can’t zero in on those guys. In high school he got big numbers so he is one of those guys that is capable of doing that.”

While most people may cite his scoring, Anderson sees his defense as the thing that is getting Jones on the court.

“I really thought he played efficiency basketball defensively and that was the thing last year that kept him away (from playing time),” Anderson said. “Now he has got a better sense of being in the right place at the right time…He is doing more things than just shooting the basketball.”

Arkansas fell down 13-2 early before Jones, Gafford and freshman Darious Hall came off the bench to spark the Razorbacks.

“Being in a situation like that, you have to tell yourself not to panic because if you panic the lead is just going to get bigger,” Gafford said. “So we just had to calm down and come together to loosen that lead up some.”

Arkansas would score 45 of the first half’s last 61 points to take a 47-29 lead at intermission and was never headed in the second half.

“It was our energy,” Jones said. “We came off the bench with a whole lot of energy. Coach A loves when his bench players come off with energy so that is what we had to bring.”

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