RAZORBACKS REPORT: Gafford locks up three-peat

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Daniel Gafford (10) and Anton Beard of Arkansas react during a timeout in the second half against Texas A&M Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, during the game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Daniel Gafford (10) and Anton Beard of Arkansas react during a timeout in the second half against Texas A&M Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, during the game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Razorbacks forward Daniel Gafford has been named SEC Freshman of the Week for the third time, the conference office announced Monday.

Gafford joins Bobby Portis and Patrick Beverley as the only Razorbacks to win the SEC freshman honor three times.

"That tells me he's starting to put things together," University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Coach Mike Anderson said. "He's really starting to figure out how hard he's got to play and play with the smarts he's got to play with.

'I think also his teammates are doing a good job of getting him started early on, and he's getting into it offensively and defensively."

Gafford averaged 18.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in Arkansas' victories at Ole Miss and over Texas A&M last week. He hit 13 of 15 shots and 11 of 17 free throws.

During the Razorbacks' four-game winning streak Gafford is averaging 16.0 points and 6.8 rebounds and has hit 25 of 34 shots (73.5 percent).

"He's playing with a lot more energy," Arkansas senior guard Daryl Macon said. "I think he kind of went down before we were on this four-game winning streak, and he's back to normal.

"I guess he got back to his happy place. But whatever he's doing now, I want him to keep doing it. Because he's amazing for us right now."

Gafford, 6-11, will be going against Kentucky's 6-11 freshman Nick Richards, 6-10 sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones and 6-9 sophomore Wenyen Gabriel tonight.

"He's playing his best basketball, which makes them a different type of team, even though they've got four seniors that are starting and are experienced," Kentucky Coach John Calipari said of Gafford. "The biggest thing is he's not afraid.

"His numbers are outstanding. When you have somebody with that kind of length and that skill set, it's pretty good stuff."

Arkansas senior guard Jaylen Barford said Gafford has played more aggressively in recent games.

"His confidence is up more, too," Barford said. "He keeps playing like that, we're going to continue to be successful."

Three-point contest

Arkansas is leading the SEC in three-point shooting at 40 percent. Kentucky is leading in three-point defense at 28.9 percent.

"Something's got to give, I guess," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. "Hopefully, we'll make some shots."

Kentucky's rotation features eight of nine players who are between 6-11 and 6-5.

"Their length and their defense, that's what keeps them in a lot of games," Anderson said "We've just got to take good shots.

"Our guys, they've done a good job of really taking much better shots here lately. That's why I said we're playing very, very efficient basketball right now."

Arkansas seniors Jaylen Barford (44.6 percent) and Daryl Macon (43.4) are first and second in the SEC in three-point shooting.

"It's not like we have to rely on the three-pointer," Macon said. "Everybody can score whether it's behind the arc or inside or getting to the free-throw line. So I don't think it'll be a problem."

The Razorbacks are second in the SEC in scoring at 82.8 points per game, but they're tied for seventh with LSU in three-pointers made at 8.0. That means 29 percent of Arkansas' points are coming from beyond the arc.

Super Tuesday

Tonight's game marks the fourth time an Arkansas game has been televised on ESPN and the first time in the network's "Super Tuesday" prime-time slot.

The Razorbacks' other ESPN appearances were afternoon games at the Phil Knight Classic in Portland, Ore., against North Carolina and Connecticut during Thanksgiving weekend, and against Texas A&M on Saturday.

Kentucky is making its 14th appearance on ESPN. The Wildcats also have played on CBS four times. Arkansas doesn't have a CBS game on its regular-season schedule.

"I'm excited to be on the SEC Network, to be honest," Razorbacks senior guard Daryl Macon said. "So whether we're on ESPN or the SEC Network, it doesn't matter. It's exciting to be on TV regardless of what network it is."

Kentucky has another ESPN game at Missouri on Saturday and another CBS game at Florida on March 3.

Meet the pressure

Kentucky had 16 turnovers at West Virginia -- a team known for its pressure defense -- but the Wildcats beat the Mountaineers 83-76.

Wildcats Coach John Calipari said his team will face another ball-handling challenge against Arkansas' defense. The Razorbacks are forcing an average of 14.3 turnovers.

"They're going to force some turnovers," Calipari said. "They"ll force you into bad situations because they're really good at it.

"But you can't have unforced turnovers. You can't have guys just driving in and losing the ball and saying 'My fault.' "

On the boards

Arkansas outrebounded Texas A&M 45-33 on Saturday, and Coach Mike Anderson said the Razorbacks will need another strong effort on the boards against Kentucky.

The Wildcats are averaging 39.0 rebounds and have a plus-5.1 margin. Kentucky outrebounded Alabama 44-27 in beating the Crimson Tide 81-71 on Saturday.

"We've got to be able to rebound with them," Anderson said. "That was a key in the A&M game."

Valuing the ball

Arkansas' nine turnovers against Texas A&M on Saturday were the fewest by the Razorbacks in seven games, since they also had nine against Oklahoma State on Jan. 27.

"We had some turnovers on the out-of-bounds plays, and that's something we've really got to clean up," Coach Mike Anderson said. "But we only had nine turnovers, which when you're playing that many guys and at that kind of pace, that's not many turnovers."

Sports on 02/20/2018

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