Observations from Arkansas' exhibition win over Tusculum

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Friday, October 26, 2018
Reggie Chaney of Arkansas dunks in the first half vs Tusculum Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, during an exhibition game in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Reggie Chaney of Arkansas dunks in the first half vs Tusculum Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, during an exhibition game in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Growing without Gafford

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said jitters played a bit of a role in the performances of some of his young faces on Friday in the Razorbacks' 96-47 exhibition win over Tusculum. Perhaps that was the case with forward Daniel Gafford, too.

Gafford played only eight minutes in the first half after he was whistled for his second foul with 8:53 to play in the first half and his third at the 8:14 mark. He had three fouls in the first half, and earned his fourth in the opening two minutes of the second half on a ticky-tack call as he battled for interior position. While his foul trouble wasn't exactly ideal, it certainly did allow a few of Anderson's newcomers to experience a game-like situation without the first-team All-SEC selection in the picture.

In Gafford's place, freshman forward Reggie Chaney shined and put together the best game of the Razorbacks' big men. Chaney finished the night with 13 points, 10 rebounds, one block and three steals. After Gafford headed to the bench in the first half, Chaney was inserted at the top of the Arkansas full court pressure and, along with Desi Sills, created some serious havoc in the backcourt and had a hand in creating a handful of the Pioneers' 29 total turnovers in a short span to overcome a sluggish start.

Chaney was very aggressive on the glass as well. Of his 10 rebounds, six came on the offensive end. Chaney's energy on the glass, whether it be on offense or defense, is what players have come to expect from him. Anderson, though, added that the Tulsa native had been struggling a bit in practice, so he enjoyed seeing the boost he provided off the bench.

"I think maybe the game brings on a different mindset and we saw that in him. He has a level of toughness that I like," Anderson said of Chaney, who was a team-best +33 in the win. "He can play above the basket and the thing I loved about him tonight, he was really great on the front of the pressure defense. He was touching a lot of basketballs. Then once he got it, he was making pretty good decisions with it. That’s going to be big.

"Now, he’s got to get better at the free throw line because again, he’s a guy that gets offensive rebounds and he’s going to get fouled a lot."

Gabe Osabuohien added four points on 1/4 shooting to go with eight rebounds and three steals in 17 minutes off the bench. For a second straight week, he wasn't shy about trying to get going on the offensive end and attacked the rim or settled for a midrange jumper on his first handful of touches. That aggressiveness did earn him three trips to the foul line, but he connected on just 2/6 and contributed to Arkansas' 8/20 start from the stripe.

He did, though, make an impact on the defensive end, as he often does. Osabuohien, who tied for the team lead in charges last season with eight, took one Friday. Anderson also thought the sophomore, who started the second half in place of Bailey, sparked the team defensively as Arkansas pulled away to open the second half.

“I think he was trying to show everybody what he is capable of doing," Anderson said. "The beauty of Gabe is that he does all that other stuff that you love. When he went in the game, I thought they game just kind of turned around. I thought we started getting the ball moved, started getting some rebounds."

Perimeter play

Sharpshooter Isaiah Joe has been nothing if not consistent from distance the last two weeks. He knocked down nine triples in the team's Red-White game last Friday and continued to shoot the ball well against Tusculum, finishing with a team-high 18 points on 5/8 from deep.

Like last week, Joe knocked down 3s from both sides of the floor. He was 3/5 to the right of the top of the key and 2/3 from the left wing. Jalen Harris, not so much know for his outside shooting, also canned a pair of 3s in the win from the left wing early in the second half.

Outside of Joe and Harris, though, Arkansas did not get much perimeter production from other guards until late when Keyshawn Embery-Simpson connected on a pair in the final three minutes of the game. His triple with just more than nine minutes to play was the first from an Arkansas guard other than Harris and Joe. Junior college guard Mason Jones finished with eight points on 2/7 from the floor and 0/4 from deep.

Not to put too much emphasis on an intrasquad scrimmage and a practice game against a Division II opponent, but Anderson needs him to get going by Nov. 9. Jones is a combined 2/11 from 3 the last two weeks and looks a bit hesitant at times. Arkansas will no doubt need his scoring ability, and shooting with confidence is a big key with him.

Harris and Joe said they both expect Jones to turn things around sooner rather than later.

Lineup combinations

Other than gaining any kind of playing experience, Anderson said his primary objective in his team's first exhibition game of the year was to experiment with lineups, and he certainly did that.

Anderson looked at a number of different combinations in his froncourt, including Gafford-Bailey, Gafford-Chaney and Gafford-Osabuohien. Gafford and Osabuohien played fewer than 100 possessions together last season. It was one that didn't reap many benefits on the offensive end, but defensively, they teamed up to turn teams over on nearly 38 percent of their offensive possessions.

Bailey and Osabuohien also saw the floor together on Friday. The two played just 35 offensive possessions together last season and 30 defensively, holding opponents to 30 percent shooting on 2-point looks. Chaney also spent some time at the 5 with Bailey at the 4.

In terms of guard play, most notably I thought, Anderson ran with Harris and Sills quite a bit in the second half, and the small-guard lineup paid dividends on the defensive end along with Joe, Osabuohien and Gafford. The two combined for 11 assists and five steals against the Pioneers.

Stray thoughts

– Anderson said following the game he simply decided not to play freshman Ibby Ali. Ali was the lone scholarship player not to play in the game. Freshman Ethan Henderson played five second-half minutes and first checked in with under 14 minutes to play. I found it interesting Anderson opted not to play Henderson for a while and Ali at all even though Gafford battled foul trouble.

"Just one of those deals," Anderson said of Ali.

Henderson had a shaky first couple of minutes, mistiming his jump on a Tusculum 3-point miss and allowing a putback. He did, though, assist on Joe's fourth 3-ball of the night and showed solid awareness in finding a shooter after catching out high in a halfcourt setting.

– Walk-on Jonathan Holmes did his thing again. He entered the game with just under three minutes to play and finally got his first shot up with 30 seconds to play. The shot banked in and the Bud Walton Arena crowd became as lively as it was all night. He then gave a little shrug as he backpedaled to the other end.

– Arkansas hosts Southwest Baptist for its final preseason tuneup next Friday night at 7 p.m.


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