Vandy can thank Gafford for its woeful FG shooting

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, February 12, 2018
Arkansas' Daniel Gafford (10) reaches to block a shot by Vanderbilt's Riley LaChance Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, during the first half of play in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas' Daniel Gafford (10) reaches to block a shot by Vanderbilt's Riley LaChance Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, during the first half of play in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Vanderbilt was on a shooting roll coming into Walton Arena.

The Commodores had hit 49.9 percent of their shots (188 of 377) the previous six games, including a season-high 55.1 percent in their 81-66 victory over Georgia on Wednesday night.

But Vanderbilt's hot shooting came to an abrupt halt on Saturday night against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville held Vanderbilt to 25.0 percent shooting (14 of 56), including 4 of 26 in the first half, as the Razorbacks won 72-54.

The only team to hold Vanderbilt to a lower shooting percentage this season was No. 2 Virginia. The Commodores shot 23.1 percent (12 of 52) in a 68-42 loss to the Cavaliers in the NIT Preseason Tip-off in Brooklyn.

It was the fewest points scored by an Arkansas opponent in 94 games, since the Razorbacks beat Wofford 56-53 in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

"We've been shooting the ball really, really well," Vanderbilt Coach Bryce Drew said. "For whatever reason, the ball just wasn't going in the hole and it became contagious."

The Commodores might have come down a severe case of Daniel Gafford fever running through their team.

Gafford, a 6-11 freshman from El Dorado, had 16 points, 9 rebounds, a career-high 7 blocked shots and 2 steals.

Six Commodores had their shots rejected by Gafford: Maxwell Evans twice and Riley LaChance, Ejike Obinna, Larry Austin, Jeff Roberson and Payton Willis (Fayetteville) once each.

"I have to protect the basket pretty much," Gafford said. "I had it on my mind I was going to send out everything that came in. They tell me that before every game -- whatever comes in, just throw it out and they'll clean up the rest."

Vanderbilt started 2 of 5 from the field before Gafford's blocked his first shot on LaChance's three-point attempt with 17:01 left in the first half. The Commodores shot 12 of 51 the rest of the game.

"Gafford I thought was a big difference in the game, and not just his scoring and rebounding but his rim protection," Drew said. "He took away a lot of easy baskets for us."

Gafford's block of LaChance was the start of the Commodores going 3 of 26 on three-pointers.

"We're a team that usually shoots threes really well and unfortunately we just couldn't knock them down," Drew said. "When we do shoot the ball well we play with a lot more confidence. We just couldn't get over that hump."

Gafford's seven blocked shots tied an Arkansas record against an SEC opponent.

Other Razorbacks with seven blocks in an SEC game are Hunter Mickelson (LSU in 2012), Delvon Johnson (Georgia in 2011), Steven Hill (Alabama in 2006) and Nick Davis (Mississippi State in 1998).

Mickelson and Gafford are the only Razorbacks to have seven blocked shots in an SEC game as a freshman.

Oliver Miller and Hill hold the record at 10 blocks in a game, which they both accomplished as sophomores. Miller did it against Texas on Feb. 4, 1990, and Hill against Texas State on Dec. 6, 2005.

Gafford has 51 blocked shots on the season and his 2.0 average ranks sixth in the SEC. In conference games, he's second with 2.3 blocks per game behind Texas A&M sophomore Robert Williams' 2.5.

Drew didn't seem surprised by Gafford's performance against Vanderbilt.

"Well, he was ranked the 37th best player in the country coming in for a reason and he showed it tonight," Drew said, referring to Gafford's high school ranking. "He impacted the game on both ends.

"He has great length and he moves really well and shot it well tonight. He's going to be a special player here."

Gafford, who hit 7 of 12 shots, scored his most points since scoring 17 at Mississippi State on Jan. 2.

"Early in the game, he was getting some shots inside, but he was missing those," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought in the second half, he went up a lot stronger to finish it.

"But he was everywhere. I thought he was active on defense. The beauty of it is that he only played 24 minutes. That tells you how efficient he was tonight.

"His energy, it was contagious on our basketball team. I always talk about guys going out and playing hard and being efficient with those minutes. I thought tonight, it was in effect with him."

Senior guard Daryl Macon, who led Arkansas with 21 points, took exception with a question about Gafford playing better than he had in the previous several games.

"I'm not actually sure what you mean when you say it's his best game in a while," Macon said. "I think Daniel's been playing good every game.

"It's not about scoring, but that's what people think. It's not about the dunks. He's a big impact out there. He gets offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, blocked shots, rotates good, hustles, runs the floor.

"It's all of those things. It's not just the things that get people out of their seats. I think he's been playing well the whole time."

Gafford got fans out of their seats when he blocked a shot by Willis with 2:13 left in the game, sprinted down the court and five seconds later scored on a windmill dunk after catching a long pass from Darious Hall.

Anderson said the play reminded him of Derek Hood, a starting forward for the Razorbacks from the 1995-96 through 1998-99 seasons.

"Derek Hood could block a shot and be down there that fast," Anderson said. "That tells me that Daniel's motor is running -- and running real high."

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UP NEXT

Arkansas men at Ole Miss

WHEN 6 p.m. Central on Tuesday

WHERE The Pavilion, Oxford, Miss.

RECORDS Arkansas 17-8, 6-6 SEC; Ole Miss 11-14, 4-8

SERIES Arkansas leads 46-32

TELEVISION SEC Network

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

SEC BLOCK PARTY

Freshman Daniel Gafford tied a record for most blocked shots by a Razorback in an SEC game when he had seven in Arkansas’ 72-54 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday night.

Here is a rundown of the five Razorbacks with seven blocks against an SEC opponent:

PLAYER;DATE;OPPONENT

Daniel Gafford;Feb. 10, 2018;Vanderbilt

Hunter Mickelson;Jan. 14, 2012;LSU

Delvon Johnson;Feb. 2, 2011;Georgia

Steven Hill;Jan. 18, 2006;Alabama

Nick Davis;Jan. 31, 1998;Mississippi State

SOURCE Arkansas media guide

BLOCKING THE ‘DORES

Here’s a rundown of Daniel Gafford’s seven blocked shots against Vanderbilt:

FIRST HALF

17:01 — Riley LaChance

7:03 — Maxwell Evans

1:18 — Maxwell Evans

SECOND HALF

17:17 — Ejike Obinna

7:03 — Larry Austin

5:37 — Jeff Roberson

2:13 — Payton Willis

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