Four-Point Play:

Analysis: Jaylen Barford's 3-point consistency, Gafford returning to form and more

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Monday, February 12, 2018
Arkansas' Jaylen Barford takes a shot while Louisiana State's Daryl Edwards (5) defends Wednesday Jan. 10, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas' Jaylen Barford takes a shot while Louisiana State's Daryl Edwards (5) defends Wednesday Jan. 10, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

— Taking a deeper look at the storylines from Arkansas' wins over South Carolina and Vanderbilt:

Jaylen Barford’s 3-point consistency

I find myself in awe of Jaylen Barford’s game often.

Whether it’s his underhand pass to Daryl Macon from Saturday, the in-air acrobatics at the rim or his filthy stepback jumpers, he has been remarkable this season. Probably an understatement. On top of all of that Barford has been deadly from 3, elevating him to the SEC’s class of elite guards.

Saturday, he worked well off screens a couple of times and made Vanderbilt pay for giving him space. In this instance he uses a Darious Hall downscreen to free himself for a wide open right-wing jumper:

What’s great about this sequence from Jaylen is he continually moves without the basketball even after his initial cut to the top of the key is denied. He pointedly returns to the right short corner, resets, then explodes off Hall’s pick. At that point Vanderbilt is praying for a miss, and the way he’s shooting it right now it’s not a likely outcome.

The senior continued to state his case for first team All-SEC honors last week by averaging 20 points on a strong 9 of 15 showing from deep. Tuesday’s win against South Carolina marked the second time in league play he’s knocked down five 3s in a game.

A season ago, opponents were happy to see Barford let jumpers fly. He erased nearly 50 percent of his positive scoring value by taking 2-point jumpshots and 20 percent on 3s (27 percent 3FG% in '16-17). This season, his 3-point numbers have spiked significantly to nearly 50 percent in league play and he's made at least two 3s in 20 of 25 games after doing so just seven times as a junior.

His Year 1 to Year 2 jump from the perimeter is probably the biggest surprise of the season on the offensive end, and you have to believe finding consistency with his jumper was part of the feedback Barford received after entering his name and going through the draft process last spring.

He's certainly done that.

Osabuohien energetic in extended minutes

Gabe Osabuohien’s first run in conference play was said to come against Ole Miss in the first half of SEC play. Instead, he continued to sit.

But when Adrio Bailey was whistled for his second foul early in the first half against South Carolina last week, the freshman was first to the scorer’s table to check in. Finally, Gabe was getting his chance to make an impact at a position that’s been a revolving door of late and provide a jolt defensively following a tough week against Texas A&M and LSU.

That he did. Mike Anderson has said Gabe is one of the team’s best backline defenders, and his anticipation is a big strength, which can spark Arkansas in transition should teammates be in solid help position.

Case in point here: Osabuohien cuts off a Vanderbilt baseline drive, forcing the ballhandler to alter his plans and look for a diving big rather than taking the ball to the rim. Daniel Gafford deflects the would-be entry and the Hogs are off and running.

The Razorbacks allowed a single point per possession in Osabuohien’s 29 defensive possessions against the Gamecocks. What’s better is his activity led to a 34.5 percent South Carolina turnover rate. Ten of South Carolina’s 18 turnovers came in his 17 minutes.

Gabe took a pair of charges in the win as well — one in each half — and grabbed a huge one-handed offensive rebound that resulted in a wide open Jaylen Barford 3 during a huge 13-2 run that put the Gamecocks down for the count late in the second half. Anderson loves his toughness, and, again, has been very complimentary of the freshman’s will to rebound in traffic.

That sequence was toughness personified.

With Bailey sitting with foul trouble, Osabuohien’s role in limiting South Carolina leading scorer Chris Silva grew as well. Arkansas’ bigs did a fantastic job on Silva, holding him to eight points on 1 of 5 from the floor to go with four turnovers. His lone bucket of the game came on a dunk late in the first half.

Arkansas outscored South Carolina 37-29 with Osabuohien in the lineup, but there was one caveat: the Gamecocks were very efficient inside the arc. Frank Martin’s club had an effective field goal percentage of 59.1 percent and shot nearly 64 percent on two-point field goals in those 29 possessions.

Osabuohien’s energy and activity was felt almost immediately on Tuesday, and Anderson said he had the greatest impact on the game of any Razorback. He didn’t force things on offense, which is a plus, but was a split-second slow delivering a pair of passes to teammates cutting backdoor and had an errant entry pass on Saturday, but those are things that will only improve given more opportunity.

And he’s placed himself in a position to contribute during a crucial six-game stretch to cap the regular season. This is the time of year in which defense wins out, and Gabe can certainly lend a hand in a multitude of ways on that end.

Gafford returning to form

Daryl Macon receives a pass from Anton Beard in the left short corner on a baseline out of bounds situation, dribbles to the left wing and makes an entry to Daniel Gafford on the block.

As Macon finds the right passing angle, Gafford is battling for prime post position against Vanderbilt’s Ejike Obinna. Gafford catches, takes one dribble toward the lane, spins right and elevates, finishing above the rim for a bucket to give Arkansas an 11-point second half lead:

It was far from a highlight-reel moment, but it was an instance of the freshman really getting back into form following a three-game stretch that saw him add just 11 points against Georgia, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

In December, after recording a career-high four assists in a win against Oral Roberts, Golden Eagles head coach Paul Mills raved about Gafford’s high ball placement on catches. Gafford holding the ball above his numbers negates the possibility of smaller defenders reaching in to potentially create turnovers.

It makes Gafford one of the toughest shots to block as well. Once Gafford gathers, accelerates up and controls the ball at the peak, Obinna has no chance to deter the freshman’s shot. Easy bucket.

That’s one example of Gafford getting his legs back underneath him as Arkansas prepares for a critical three-week run to cap the regular season. He averaged 13.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and five blocks in wins last week and has finished in double figures in each of the Hogs’ last three games.

His 16 points against Vanderbilt were the most in a league game since the loss at Mississippi State (17) and he set a career-high with seven blocks, the last of which led to an otherworldly sequence that landed him at No. 2 on SportsCenter — and gave the student section buy one, get one free at Raising Canes. The sound of the block that kickstarted the break may haunt Vanderbilt the rest of the season.

What makes the windmill dunk possible is his desire to beat his matchup down the floor, and the amazing thing is he does it effortlessly and with such grace. Gafford derives 25 percent of his positive scoring value at the rim in transition, according to HoopLens. After the block, Gafford’s foot is on the baseline, then, his freakish abilities take over.

The motor we saw then was on display well before that point, too. Gafford missed a pair of bunnies around the rim on one possession with just more than seven minutes to play, but stuck with the play, hustled back and blocked layup off of Maxwell Evans. Daryl Macon then buried his third 3-pointer on Arkansas’ next possession.

Gafford knocked down a long 2 on Saturday as well. If that's a shot that becomes more consistent he becomes virtually unguardable.

Hogs benefit from poor shooting

There's no two ways about it - Vanderbilt missed a lot of really good looks on Saturday, and Arkansas was fortunate in that regard.

Vanderbilt entered the game in the top half of the SEC in 3-point percentage and fourth in offensive efficiency, averaging nearly 108 points per 100 possessions, but struggled to find any rhythm on that end throughout the night without the 3 falling.

The Commodores' best stretch may have come at the end of the first half as they cut Arkansas' lead to 28-21 at the break.

Bryce Drew's club finished a woeful 3 of 26 from beyond the arc, but Arkansas was able to put a stranglehold on the game by slowing Vanderbilt inside of it. Vanderbilt ranked first in the league inside the 3-point line coming in, knocking down better than 56 percent. It finished 11 of 30 in that department - 10 of 17 at the rim - largely behind Daniel Gafford's career-best seven blocks.

Couple those figures together and it gives Arkansas its best night of the season in terms of defensive efficiency. Arkansas gave up an average of .748 points per possession, slightly better than its season-opening win against Samford (56 points, .749 PPP).

It was Vanderbilt's second worst offensive performance of the season only to a 42-point outing against Virginia in late November.

The Razorbacks did a great job holding down South Carolina and Vanderbilt's first options. Chris Silva appeared a bit out of sync and Vandy's Jeff Roberson struggled as well, scoring eight points on 2 of 10 from the floor. Arkansas didn't allow a Commodore to reach double figures in Saturday's win, which drew a stunned response from Daryl Macon postgame.

For what it's worth, South Carolina and Vanderbilt aren't strong teams by any stretch and both are well out of the NCAA Tournament picture. Arkansas needs to use the wins as a springboard moving forward while continuing to shore up its 3-point defense. The teams remaining on the schedule are more than capable of making the Hogs pay for defensive lapses in ways the Gamecocks and Commodores couldn't.

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