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Western Kentucky's Bassey lends hand, sends Razorbacks to loss

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, December 9, 2018
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford (left) walks off the floor with teammate Adrio Bailey (2) after missing a shot as time expired during a game against Western Kentucky on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford (left) walks off the floor with teammate Adrio Bailey (2) after missing a shot as time expired during a game against Western Kentucky on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- When University of Arkansas point guard Jalen Harris drove for what he hoped would be a game-winning basket, Charles Bassey was waiting for him.

Bassey, Western Kentucky's 6-11 freshman center, blocked the 6-2 Harris' shot with 3.5 seconds left, and the Hilltoppers survived a last-second tip attempt on an out-of-bounds play to hold off the Razorbacks 78-77 on Saturday in Walton Arena.

"I knew the point guard wasn't going to pass the ball and he was going to the rim, because he can't shoot," Bassey said. "So I was there for help, and I got the block."

Western Kentucky guard Taveion Hollingsworth caught the ball, but he was ruled out of bounds for having his left foot on the baseline.

That gave Arkansas possession with 1.8 seconds left.

Harris inbounded the ball to 6-11 Daniel Gafford, who got a hand on the ball as he was double-team by Bassey and Marek Nelson. His desperation shot attempt did not fall.

Razorbacks forward Adrio Bailey couldn't control the ball on a rebound attempt, but it appeared time had expired right before he touched it.

"At the end of the day, they made more plays than we did," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said.

Gafford's putback of a missed Isaiah Joe three-point attempt gave Arkansas (6-2) a 77-76 lead with 45.7 seconds left.

After Western Kentucky Coach Rick Stansbury called timeout, Bassey was working to get post-up position when Gafford fell down trying to front him.

Bassey got the ball, and when Bailey left Nelson to guard him, Bassey passed to Nelson for a layup with 19.4 seconds left.

"I helped him, and I left my man open," Bailey said. "So they got the layup."

Anderson called timeout for the final possession.

"Obviously, we wanted to get the floor spread and get it inside, attack and get a foul," Anderson said. "Or let's get the ball into Dan, and if they collapse -- which they were doing -- let's get it to the shooters.

"The clock was running down and they made a good play. The big fellow blocked the shot. But we were trying to get it to Dan and get to the line and try to find Isaiah spotting up or Mason [Jones] spotting up."

Bassey led WKU (5-4) with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in 32 minutes in his battle inside against Gafford that drew 13 NBA scouts among the announced crowd of 9,349.

Gafford had 17 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 32 minutes.

"Well, our guy is pretty good," Stansbury said of Bassey. "Gafford is a terrific player ... but Charles is a man, too. He stood up and held his own.

"He made a great read late in that game, we're down one, a great pass. Those are the kind of plays and kind of games that will make him better, too. Charles is a really good, young big guy."

Joe, a freshman guard, led the Razorbacks (6-2) with 19 points, but 16 of those came in the first half when Arkansas took a 41-33 lead.

The Hilltoppers outscored the Razorbacks 24-8 in the first 7:17 of the second half to move ahead 57-49. Arkansas shot 3 of 11 during that stretch and had 2 turnovers.

"We weren't connected like how we were initially," Bailey said. "They just had that little run, and we couldn't recover from it."

Anderson said the bench players he used when WKU took the lead wasn't Arkansas' problem.

"It wasn't the reserves," Anderson said. "I thought it was the guys that started off.

"We were real sluggish. We were sloppy with the basketball. We didn't score. We missed a lot of little shots inside."

WKU shot 50 percent from the field (28 of 59) and hit 9 of 22 three-pointers. Jared Savage scored 20 points for the Hilltoppers and Hollingsworth added 17.

"They spread us, and our help side was not there," Anderson said. "It's the opposite of how we've been playing. I thought defensively that was probably one of our worst performances."

Jones had 15 points and Harris had 13 points, 7 assists and 2 steals.

Bailey was scoreless for the first time this season after coming into the game averaging 10.9 points per game. He shot 0 of 4 from the field and missed both of his free-throw attempts.

"Give Western Kentucky a lot of credit," Anderson said. "I thought they came in with the right mindset."

Stansbury credited his team's grit and toughness after the Hilltoppers won on the road for the first time in four tries.

"I think we just locked in defensively and offensively," Stansbury said. "We had toughness coming out of halftime. We knew how important it was the first four minutes of the second half to really jump on them and get that lead."

Game sketch

RECORDS Arkansas 6-2; Western Kentucky

5-4

STARS WKU freshman center Charles Bassey (21 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocked shots) and junior guard Jared Savage (20 points). Arkansas freshman guard Isaiah Joe (19 points) and sophomore forward Daniel Gafford (17 points, 9 rebounds)

KEY STAT The Hilltoppers shot 50 percent (29 of 58) from the field.

UP NEXT Arkansas plays Texas-San Antonio at 7 p.m. Saturday at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

Sports on 12/09/2018

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