SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL: ARKANSAS 65, MISSOURI 63:

Up and over: Alley-oop to Gafford snaps UA skid

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, January 14, 2018
Daniel Gafford goes in for a dunk during a game against Missouri on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Daniel Gafford goes in for a dunk during a game against Missouri on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- It wasn't looking good for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Missouri had erased an 18-point lead and moved ahead by six points with less than five minutes left Saturday in Walton Arena.

But the Razorbacks had one last run left in them as they came back to beat the Tigers 65-63 before an announced crowd of 18,297.

A three-point attempt by Missouri guard Jordan Geist rimmed out with two seconds left and allowed the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (12-5, 2-3 SEC) to end a three-game losing streak.

"I thought our guys played with their guts," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought they played defense. I thought they didn't panic.

"That's what good teams do. We're a good basketball team. I think we had to get ourselves humbled a little bit. The last three games, we got humbled.

"We weren't playing with that sense of urgency for 40 minutes. And it shows you, you can get a lead and lose a lead, but you still have to have the resolve."

Missouri (12-5, 2-2) was outscored by the Razorbacks 12-4 in the final 3:45, capped by a basket by 6-11 freshman Daniel Gafford with an assist on a lob pass from Daryl Macon that put Arkansas ahead 65-63 with 57.9 seconds left.

Gafford set a screen for Macon, then rolled to the lane, caught the pass and scored despite being fouled by Jeremiah Tilmon.

"I just found him on the roll," said Macon, a senior guard who had 8 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. "That's something that I think we should do more often because he's open. It's hard to guard when you've got a guy that athletic, and then you've got a guard coming off that can score."

Gafford said the play comes naturally to him because it's what he did at El Dorado High School.

"I've been doing pick and roll all my life pretty much," he said. "When he threw a lob, I mean, I just had to go get it."

After Gafford missed a free throw, Missouri had a chance to regain the lead, but Jordan Barnett missed a three-point attempt with 42 seconds left.

Macon missed a three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining. The Tigers got the rebound and Coach Cuonzo Martin called timeout with 11.8 seconds left to set up a play.

Martin said there were several options -- which included both three-point and two-point attempts, depending on the defense.

The Razorbacks did a good job of denying the ball to Missouri guard Kassius Robertson, who scored a game-high 26 points and hit 6 of 11 three-pointers.

"So you just read the defense and you make a play," Martin said.

Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford, who scored 13 points, did a good job of contesting Geist's shot.

"I was praying that it went in," Geist said. "I wish I would have gotten a better look, a wide-open look.

"I tried to get the ball to Kassius, but it just wasn't open. I just tried to take what the defense gave me."

Anderson said the Razorbacks played defense well on the final possession.

Missouri didn't score after Kevin Puryear hit two free throws to put the Tigers ahead 63-60 with 2:49 left.

"I thought the difference in the game was our defense going down the stretch," Anderson said. "We got down, but we continued to play basketball and our defense tightened up."

After Barford hit a layup to make it 63-62, Puryear was called for a foul on an illegal screen that knocked down Macon.

Razorbacks forward Dustin Thomas hit 1 of 2 throws to tie it 63-63 with 1:37 left, then Tilmon was called for a foul when he shoved Anton Beard while setting a screen.

Arkansas led by as many as 18 points in the first half and was ahead 35-28 at halftime.

A rebound basket by senior forward Trey Thompson gave the Razorbacks a 51-42 lead with 10:37 left.

Missouri then outscored Arkansas 17-2 over a 6:22 span, including eight points by Robertson, to move ahead 59-53 with 4:42 left.

"I was surprised when we lost the lead, because I wasn't even paying attention to the score," said Gafford, who had 15 points and six rebounds. "Then I look up and the lead changed. We just had to get back into it mentally and get a W."

Martin said he knew the Razorbacks wouldn't fold after they fell behind late.

"Not Mike's group," Martin said. "They won't quit. They made plays. They scratched and clawed and did what they needed to do."

Freshman forward Darious Hall made his first start, replacing Macon, and helped energize the Razorbacks with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.

"I thought our guys did the things I've been looking for them to do," Anderson said. "We haven't been playing that way with a sense of urgency.

"I thought tonight we played with that sense of urgency from the start, and that starts with defense."

Game sketch

RECORDS Arkansas 12-4, 2-3 SEC; Missouri 12-5, 2-2 STARS Arkansas freshman forward Daniel Gafford (15 points, 6 rebounds) and senior guard Daryl Macon (8 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds). Missouri senior guard Kassius Robertson (26 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) TURNING POINT The Razorbacks outscored the Tigers 12-4 over the final 4:35 to overcome a 59-53 deficit. KEY STAT Arkansas outscored Missouri 34-14 on points in the lane. UP NEXT Arkansas plays at Florida at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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