Razorbacks Report:

Gafford's absence not a killer

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2019
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.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas basketball team rallied to win 73-71 at Texas A&M with its best player -- Daniel Gafford -- on the bench with four fouls.

"It shows that we're more than just a one-man wrecking crew," Razorbacks sophomore guard Jalen Harris said.

Gafford, a 6-11 sophomore, is projected as a first-round NBA Draft choice.

"Knowing that Dan is the problem he is [for opponents] -- a potential lottery pick this year -- and doing it without him shows how good we really can be," Harris said. "We haven't really reached our full potential. But I think if we keep playing the way we did at Texas A&M, we're going to surprise a lot of people."

When Gafford went to the bench with four fouls with 4:39 left and the Aggies ahead 55-53, forward Gabe Osabuohien came in and played the majority of the rest of the game with Harris, Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe and Adrio Bailey.

"That group was getting the job done," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "They were ready because they had all played meaningful minutes this season."

Gafford, averaging 17.0 points and 9.3 rebounds, didn't come back into the game until there were 57.7 seconds left.

"Coach A trusted us to make plays without Dan," Bailey said. "We told Dan before the season started, 'They're going to try to double you, they're going to try to get you in foul trouble.' So we were always prepared for situations like that before they even happened."

Osabuohien said it was a positive for the Razorbacks to prove they can win on the road if Gafford has to be out of the game during a key stretch.

"It brings up all of our confidence knowing that we can step up when Daniel's not able to be in the game due to foul trouble," Osabuohien said. "It was big for us."

Decking by Desi

The Razorbacks had a dunk taken away on an unusual foul call midway through the second half against Texas A&M.

With the score tied 45-45, Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe stole the ball from TJ Starks on the perimeter and passed ahead to Daniel Gafford, who was beyond any defenders and cruising in for a go-ahead dunk.

Behind Gafford, guard Desi Sills was whistled for a foul for impeding the path of Jay Jay Chandler, who threw his arms up and fell to the floor after running into Sills from behind.

"I think it was a judgment call, that's all," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said Monday. "I thought he kind of went in the path of the guy.

"Did he stop? That's up to the official. He probably thought [Sills] stopped and impeded the guy's path going toward Daniel. I think it was a judgment call, and they made what they thought was the right call. And I'm sure there was some flopping involved in it, too."

The Razorbacks broke the 45-45 deadlock more than two minutes later on a pair of free throws by Jalen Harris en route to a 73-71 victory.

Board work

The Razorbacks outrebounded Texas A&M 47-42 in the conference opener after Mike Anderson spent much of the team's practice time after the Christmas break harping on its importance.

Arkansas had been outrebounded in eight of its first 12 games and had the biggest rebound margin deficit in the SEC at minus-1.5 per game entering conference play.

"Coach has been telling us that all year, and we have to take it upon ourselves to go out and go get the boards," forward Adrio Bailey said. "It takes all five guys, or four with one back. It takes everybody to crash the glass and get those boards."

In addition to Daniel Gafford's team-high 11 rebounds, Gabe Osabuohien added 7, while Bailey had 5, guard Mason Jones added 5, and point guard Jalen Harris had 3 along with forward Reggie Chaney.

"The only way you're going to get a chance to get rebounds is you've got to put yourself in position," Anderson said. "So I'm looking at guys like Adrio getting his body in there. Gabe had some nice stick-backs where he tipped it in, and got a big rebound going down the stretch.

"A good rebounder thinks all shots are misses."

Anderson said the coaching staff has stressed rebounding all season.

"Trust me, we do emphasize it, OK?" Anderson said. "It ain't like we just did it last week.

"But I think it's something that was really made clear to our guys and they understood that there is a sense of urgency when you get to conference play."

Just shoot

Arkansas point guard Jalen Harris is 4 of 30 on three-pointers this season, but 2 of 5 in the past two games. He hit 1 of 2 three-pointers against Austin Peay and 1 of 3 at Texas A&M.

Harris credited Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson and the assistant coaches for keeping his confidence up about shooting from the perimeter.

"Coach A and all the coaching staff just tell me not to think about it and just shoot my shot," Harris said. "I have confidence in it, and I'm working on it every day in practice.

"So when Coach A is telling me to shoot it, then I have no other choice. Just having the confidence in myself in taking that shot and to make the shot, that's the big difference."

Sports on 01/08/2019

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