Hogs' bench gives extra spark

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, December 7, 2018
Arkansas forward Gabe Osabuohien (22) dunks on Colorado State during an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Fort Collins, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Coloradoan via AP)
Arkansas forward Gabe Osabuohien (22) dunks on Colorado State during an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Fort Collins, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Coloradoan via AP)

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas star forward Daniel Gafford didn't attempt a shot in the first half of Wednesday night's game at Colorado State, but by halftime the Razorbacks were well on their way to a 98-74 victory.

Credit the bench.

With Gafford limited to eight minutes in the first half because of foul problems, reserves Reggie Chaney, Keyshawn Embery-Simpson and Gabe Osabuohien combined for 23 points to help Arkansas take a 44-33 lead.

"They came in and did what they were supposed to do," Gafford said. "They came in and had the energy we needed to be able to extend that lead that we had.

"For them to provide all the talent and stuff in the minutes they did, that's a good thing."

Arkansas finished the game with a 38-7 edge in bench points.

"Our bench, I think, gets the game ball tonight," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said on Arkansas' postgame radio broadcast.

Embery-Simpson, a freshman guard, scored a season-high 14 points in 16 minutes and hit 4 of 5 three-pointers. Chaney, a freshman forward, had a season-high 11 points, matched his season high with 8 rebounds, and also had 2 blocked shots in 19 minutes. He hit 5 of 8 shots.

Osabuohien, a sophomore forward, had 5 points and 5 rebounds in 9 minutes. Freshman guard Desi Sills had a season-high 8 points, hit 2 of 3 three-pointers and had 3 assists in 16 minutes.

"Whatever we need to win a game, whatever Coach needs," Embery-Simpson said of how he views his role off bench. "Energy on both ends of the floor, hard work and leadership. Whatever we need."

When Texas beat Arkansas 73-71 in overtime to open the season, the Longhorns outscored the Razorbacks 25-4 in bench points. Sills had three points and Osabuohien scored one.

"I mean, we were probably a little nervous," Embery-Simpson said. "But everybody settled in and has games under their belt, so now we've adjusted and play as one.

"Whenever someone needs it in a game, that's when we contribute."

Anderson said that playing in Fort Collins, Colo. -- where the elevation is 5,003 feet --meant Arkansas' starters needed some extra additional rest against Colorado State.

"The air got kind of thin out there," Anderson said. "They were gasping for air. Their chests were burning with that altitude."

Gafford played 22 minutes Wednesday night but said that was plenty.

"My chest, it was real heavy," Gafford said. "So I had to get used to that gym a little bit more."

Considering the Razorbacks didn't get home until about 3:30 a.m. Thursday after flying from Fort Collins to Fayetteville, the bench could be a major factor when Arkansas (6-1) plays Western Kentucky (4-4) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Walton Arena.

"We want to continue to develop our bench," Anderson said. "I think that's going to be the strength of our team, the numbers that we have and trying to make fatigue a factor in a 40-minute game."

Embery-Simpson had a breakout game at Colorado State and doubled his previous season scoring high after having seven points against California-Davis and Florida International.

"Playing with these guys, they keep pushing and pushing to get better each and every day," said Embery-Simpson, who is averaging 5.4 points and 15.7 minutes. "So obviously I knew it was going to come."

It took Chaney 11 seconds after he came into Wednesday night's game to get a dunk. He had 9 points and 5 rebounds in 11 minutes in the first half.

"When Reggie comes in he's nothing but another warrior on the glass," Gafford said. "He's another big body we have. He comes in and he can bang with the post players, guard 1 through 5 basically.

"I just like his game all the way through because he can basically do it all."


Arkansas men vs Western Kentucky

WHEN 2:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville.

RECORDS Arkansas 6-1; Western Kentucky 4-4

SERIES Arkansas leads 4-2


RADIO Razorback Sports Network

Chaney is averaging 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 14.3 minutes.

"Reggie plays the game with an edge," Anderson said. "He's got stuff you can't teach. He's got ability, he's got toughness, he's got good hands, he runs the floor well, he defends.

"He's got a lot of potential there and we're just starting to tap into some of it. But the more he plays, the more you get the chance to see the things he can do."

Anderson said earlier in the season that the bench players needed meaningful minutes to develop, and now his decision to use at least four reserves in every game is starting to pay dividends.

"You go on out there. Go out and play," Anderson said of his message to the bench players. "I don't want you looking over here at me. Just go play basketball.

"I'm showing them I trust them, because I'm putting them out there. They've got to go ahead and play with that confidence, and make some mistakes and get through it.

"So they can do the things they do every day in practice. Taking their practice to the game."

Sports on 12/07/2018


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