Gafford dominant in win over Indiana

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Sunday, November 18, 2018
Arkansas' Daniel Gafford (10) goes up for a shot against Indiana defenders during a game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas' Daniel Gafford (10) goes up for a shot against Indiana defenders during a game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Fayetteville.

— In the words of wrestler Ric Flair, to be the man, you have to beat the man.

On Sunday, both Arkansas sophomore center Daniel Gafford and Indiana freshman guard Romeo Langford showed why they are expected to be lottery picks in the 2019 NBA Draft.

But in the end, Gafford’s career-high 27 points, career-high-tying 12 rebounds and 3 blocks pushed Arkansas to the finish line, and Mason Jones’ free throw with 2.7 seconds left got the Razorbacks over it in a 73-72 win at Bud Walton Arena.

“We made plays and we executed,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “You talk about having played the Texas game (a 73-71 season-opening, neutral-site loss), I thought it came back to help us. We didn’t panic and we made the right plays at the right time.

“And what can you say about Daniel? He played his tail off on both ends of the floor starting the game off with a blocked shot that enabled us to get a basket at the other end. So a good team win.”

Gafford was 12-of-15 from the field and 3-of-8 from the free throw line while playing 31 minutes. He only committed two fouls for the Razorbacks (2-1).

He scored 14 Arkansas points in a row in the second half, including 12 straight beginning with Indiana being up 54-53 at the 10:40 and ending with the Razorbacks being ahead 67-66 with 3:58 left.

“Tough, tough hard-fought game,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “Give Arkansas credit. I thought they played very good. I thought they played very hard and Daniel Gafford was a really, really tough handle for us today. He pretty much neutralized the game at any point in time, and he was dominant, which is something that is obviously going to help us moving forward in defending the caliber of big like that.”

Gafford was averaging 16 points and eight rebounds in Arkansas’ first two games, but said he changed his philosophy for the third game.

“What was going good for me is that I wasn’t playing weak like I usually do,” Gafford said. “I would usually come in and just have my main focus to be to go get the game. But this time I left the game come to me instead of just trying to take it.

“Letting the game comes to you goes more smooth. It just came smooth and came out of nowhere because every time I would touch the ball, I would either miss and get the rebound or I would go up and get a foul.”

Langford (6-6, 180 pounds) was brilliant as well with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists for the Hoosiers (3-1), who were coming in off a 96-73 home win over No. 24 Marquette.

Adrio Bailey missed a baseline jumper with 17 seconds left and Indiana had two good looks from Aljami Durham and De’ron Davis that rimmed out late.

Jones grabbed the defensive rebound and was fouled with 2.7 seconds left, made one and intentionally missed the second charity toss. Indiana center Juwan Morgan had to heave a shot that was nearly the full 94 feet of the court.

“He (Gafford) had a lot of open looks, because we were hedging a little bit on some screens and they were putting up shots, and we couldn’t get back in front of him,” Morgan said. “But at the same time, we just have to have a lock-down mentality, a tougher mentality from the get-go. We didn’t really establish that, being the tougher team for 40 minutes.

“I think we did a better job in the second half than the first half, but we kind of kind of got away from it, and (Gafford) was able to get comfortable.”

Gafford picked up two early fouls on Morgan, who ended the day with 15 points and seven rebounds.

“Having that guy inside, where those guys can play around him, is gonna be an advantage,” Miller said. “You watch them play and they make one foul shot, they beat Texas. ... It was good for us early, especially these first couple weeks in the season, to feel that and get hit in the mouth a little bit and understand this is what it'll be like every time we take the road from this point forward.”

“He's got a tremendous size and he's around the basket. But they have a very difficult system where they take away your help constantly with the way that they cut and move and screen. As you're in help, you're losing shooters. As you're in help as a screener, they’re really going inside around him, four around one. He did a good job today of being able to play on top of us.

"We have to do a better job with our technique and then we have to do a better job that when it does go in there, we can find a way to help a little bit better. To be honest with you, this is the first time we've seen that type of presence. This will give us a little bit more information on what we need to do as we get ready to play more guys like him.”

The Arkansas-Indiana game was part of the Hardwood Classic, which also has the Razorbacks hosting Montana State on Wednesday and Texas-Arlington on Friday.

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