Chaney-Gafford frontcourt pairing paying off

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Monday, December 17, 2018
Reggie Chaney (35) of Arkansas attempts a shot as Josh Anderson of Western Kentucky guards Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Reggie Chaney (35) of Arkansas attempts a shot as Josh Anderson of Western Kentucky guards Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Reggie Chaney is already a starter in the eyes of Arkansas coach Mike Anderson whether he's introduced prior to tipoff or not.

If Chaney - 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 3 blocks - continues to play as he did in Arkansas' 79-67 win against Texas-San Antonio on Saturday, he could very well find himself in Anderson's actual starting lineup alongside forward Daniel Gafford.

That may not be a bad idea.

Over a decent sample size, the Chaney-Gafford combination has served Arkansas well this season, particularly on the defensive end. Through the UTSA game, Arkansas is allowing a minuscule .70 points per possession over 108 defensive possessions when Gafford and Chaney share the floor, and scoring at a 1.14 PPP clip, according to HoopLens analytics.

The .44 PPP differential is the highest of any two-player combination with a minimum 100 possessions together. Against lineups featuring both players, opponents are shooting just 26.1 percent on looks inside the 3-point line and grabbing only 20.3 percent of their misses, vs. 47 and 36.1 percent, respectively, without them.

"You have some athletic forwards," Anderson said Monday of the Chaney and Gafford pairing. "Defensively is what I really like because (Chaney) is not afraid. That’s what you want. You want guys that are not afraid to get in there and mix it up, rebounding the basketball, being active on traps.

"He deflects a lot of passes, so again, when he’s in there, he’s engaged."

The play of Gafford and Chaney on Saturday, particularly in the second half, was the difference in the game. For the second time this season, Anderson opted to start Chaney in the second half in place of junior Adrio Bailey, who's experiencing his first funk of the season following a solid start.

Gafford and Chaney combined for 21 points and 10 rebounds after halftime with both playing 17 minutes. For the game, the Razorbacks scored at a 1.32 PPP clip over 37 possessions the two shared the floor and held UTSA to .83 points per possession. Arkansas was outscored 37-30 when they both sat.

In the past, Anderson has raved about Chaney's quick feet, active hands and his ability to guard all five positions. UTSA coach Steve Henson did the same Saturday night, praising the freshman for the way he impacted the game defensively and effectively switched screens.

"We kept getting the switch and (guards Jhivvan) Jackson and Keaton Wallace typically just blow by big guys in those situations or freeze them and shoot it, and we couldn’t do that with him," Henson said of Chaney. "His ability to space out and then contest those shots and they let him reach in there and poke the ball away from our ball handlers.

"He’s pretty good. To have a guy with that frame and that size be able to switch onto elite scorers like that is pretty special, a pretty special deal."

Per 40 minutes played, Chaney's scoring numbers are strikingly similar to Bailey's, with both averaging better than 14 points. But Chaney's impact is greater on the glass, where he averages 11 rebounds per 40 minutes and nearly four blocks.

In 70 fewer minutes, Chaney has more offensive rebounds (12), total rebounds (39) and blocks (14) than Bailey, who has started each of Arkansas' nine games beside Gafford.

"(I) just come with the same energy and be a nuisance on defense," Chaney said Monday of his mindset. "Offense is going to come. I just worry about defense and playing hard and getting rebounds – being the aggressor."

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