Hogs fine with Gafford on the bench

By: Matt Jones
Published: Saturday, November 24, 2018
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford (10) watches from the bench during a game against Texas-Arlington on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford (10) watches from the bench during a game against Texas-Arlington on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Fayetteville.

— When sophomore forward Daniel Gafford went to the bench with 13:28 remaining in Arkansas' game against Indiana on Nov. 18, the Razorbacks led the Hoosiers 53-44.

Over the subsequent 2:17 of game time, Indiana went on an 8-0 run to pull within 53-52, and the Hoosiers regained the lead moments after Gafford's re-entry.

But Arkansas' offense changed with Gafford back in the game and he scored the next 12 points for the Razorbacks, who went on to defeat the Hoosiers 73-72 behind Gafford's career-high 27 points.

"He pretty much neutralized the game at any point in time and he was dominant," Indiana coach Archie Miller said after the game.

Arkansas faced another stretch without Gafford five days later against Texas-Arlington on Friday night. Gafford committed his fourth personal foul with 9:26 remaining and the Razorbacks ahead 54-45.

But Arkansas' offense produced well with Gafford on the bench. The Razorbacks continued to extend their lead and Gafford never re-entered.

Arkansas outscored Texas-Arlington 24-15 over the final 9:26 en route to a 78-60 win.

"That's the thing that shows the growth in this basketball team," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "There are going to be times he (Gafford) may get in foul trouble. Who are the guys who are going to come in and give us some great minutes?

"We had some guys step up offensively and defensively - I think more defensively that led to some things on offense for us."

The Razorbacks' frontcourt scored 11 points with Gafford on the bench. Adrio Bailey scored seven of his 14 points in the final 9:26, and Reggie Chaney scored four points, including a transition dunk in the closing seconds to cap the scoring.

"It shows that I'm not the main target that everyone has to worry about now," said Gafford, who finished with a game-high 21 points and five rebounds. "We've got a lot of guys that are on our bench that can come in and produce big numbers. All eyes won't be on me because they know we've got other guys who are able to come in and score at least double-digit points and get rebounds and get steals and blocks."

Texas-Arlington coach Chris Ogden said Arkansas might be more difficult to defend with Gafford not on the court.

"I know it sounds weird, but they start opening up the lane for drives and things like that," Ogden said. "He's obviously a lottery pick and a huge factor. They closed on a great run and did well."

Texas-Arlington took more than half its field-goal attempts from the perimeter, but the Mavericks briefly attacked the rim in the minutes following Gafford's fourth foul. Four of the Mavericks' subsequent five possessions included drives to the basket by guards Brian Warren and Rashad Davis, resulting in three made layups and two made free throws following a personal foul against Arkansas forward Gabe Osabuohien, who fouled out with 6:31 remaining.

Anderson briefly sent Gafford to the scorer's table to replace Osabuohien, but brought him back to the bench and went instead with Chaney. The Razorbacks switched from a matchup zone to man-to-man, which eliminated many of the driving lanes and forced the Mavericks back into several long field-goal attempts.

The Mavericks made one field goal in the final five minutes.

"I thought our guys did a good job of rotating over," Anderson said. 'We took about five or six charges. I think that's the most charges we've taken in a game.

"I think our guys are starting to get it. There are different ways to protect the rim."

And there are different ways to win apart from Gafford.

"I think it just allowed guys to step up and showcase what they have," said Chaney, who had season highs of eight points and eight rebounds. "That was really a learning experience for us."

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