Embery-Simpson, Chaney spur Arkansas' bench effort in win

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Saturday, December 29, 2018
Arkansas Austin Peay Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, during the Razorbacks' 76-65 win in Bud Walton Arena. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the game.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas Austin Peay Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, during the Razorbacks' 76-65 win in Bud Walton Arena. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the game.

— On a night when Arkansas truly needed its bench, freshmen Keyshawn Embery-Simpson and Reggie Chaney showed why they were so highly regarded coming into the Razorbacks program.

Daniel Gafford had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Isaiah Joe 15 points, Embery-Simpson a career-high tying 14 points and Chaney added 12 points as the Razorbacks downed Austin Peay 76-65 on Friday before an announced crowd of 8,556 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

For the game, Mason Jones and Jalen Harris were a combined 2-for-15 from the field while Embery-Simpson and Chaney were 11-of-17 off the bench.

“I’m very proud of the effort of those guys coming off the bench,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought they were the difference in the game. ... The second half, we have some guys that came off and gave us big, big minutes and hopefully it was a breakthrough game.”

Embery-Simpson (6-3, 202) had 12 of his points during a 20-5 run that put the game away.

“Keyshawn went on a run by himself,” Anderson said. “I always tell our guys to be ready. He was. I thought our team got better tonight and why it got better was we saw some guys, especially young guys…that were out there with the game was on the line and as it was on the line, they were out there making plays offensively and defensively, sharing the basketball.

“I thought it got really exciting in here when that was happening. It’s growth with our basketball team.”

Embery-Simpson led his Midwest City, Okla., team to a state title as a junior and then transferred to IMG Academy, where he played just 10 games due to injury.

“I know it was going to take time to get back to where I was on both ends and conditioning-wise and all-around to show what I can do,” Embery-Simpson said. “It felt great.”

Embery-Simpson, who also had 14 points at Colorado State, scored all of his points in nine minutes in the second half.

“If you think about it on the year, Keyshawn has had some periods where he has played well, especially defensively,” Anderson said. “Offensively, I think it's just a matter of time before everything kind of clicks for him. He got the ball on the baseline and was attacking the basket and I thought he just played with a lot of confidence.

“We have seen it in practice so it was good to see it take place in a game.”

Chaney (6-8, 220) scored six of his 12 in the second half and worked well with Gafford inside.

“I just came in confident,” Chaney said. “Coach said whenever your number is called be ready so I was just coming in confident on both ends.”

Austin Peay coach Matt Figger, who was director of basketball operations for three months under John Pelphrey at Arkansas back in 2007, was very impressed with Embery-Simpson.

“He got his number called and I think during the stretch, he was the difference maker,” Figger said. “He only played 13 minutes, but you score 14 in 13 minutes and that is a pretty good number. I thought he was the difference in that stretch in the game.

“He was everywhere and did a really good job for them. We all know how good Gafford is, but I think we probably underestimated what he (Embery-Simpson) was capable of and he did some good things.

“It was so fast and it was such Arkansas basketball.”

Jordan Phillips added 4 points, fellow freshman Desi Sills had 5 assists and sophomore Gabe Osabuohien finished with three assists off the bench.

“Guys can play when it is mop-up time or a 20-point lead and all that stuff, but I am talking about when the game is on the line,” Anderson said. “That is going to come back and pay big dividends for us. Your team gets to grow and it brings competition.”

Phillips, who was 2-of-16 shooting coming into the game after starting the year injured, hit two of his four field goals and both free throws.

“I thought he gave us some great minutes and we are going to build on that,” Anderson said.

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