Critical Gafford:

Ole Miss held Razorbacks' forward to season low in UA defeat

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford (10) attempts a dunk as Mississippi guard Breein Tyree (4) watches during the second half of the NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. Mississippi won 84-67. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford (10) attempts a dunk as Mississippi guard Breein Tyree (4) watches during the second half of the NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. Mississippi won 84-67. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Ole Miss held Daniel Gafford to a season-low two field goals and without an offensive rebound in beating the University of Arkansas basketball team 84-67 on Saturday.

Gafford, a 6-11 sophomore from El Dorado and a projected first-round NBA Draft pick, hit 2 of 6 shots. His previous season-low for baskets was three against California-Davis (3 of 3) and Florida (3 of 4).

Hitting 5 of 6 free throws helped Gafford match his season scoring low of nine points against Ole Miss.

One of the reasons Gafford didn't get more shots against Ole Miss is because he didn't have an offensive rebound for the second time in 17 games this season. He came into the Ole Miss game averaging 3.0 offensive rebounds to lead the SEC.

The only other game in which Gafford didn't have at least one offensive rebound was UC-Davis. He had at least two offensive rebounds in every other game, with a high of six at Texas A&M.

"I didn't attack the glass like I usually do at all against Ole Miss," said Gafford, who had defensive 10 rebounds. "I didn't attack the defensive glass like I needed to or the offensive glass."

Gafford had five turnovers at Ole Miss, his most since having six in each of the first two games against Texas and UC-Davis.

"It was a real off game for me," Gafford said. "I don't know what it was. I was trying to get back to the flow of the game, but I could never get there.

"I told the guys to try to stay in it, and I'll do whatever it takes to help them try to stay in the game. Ole Miss wasn't my day."

The Rebels double-teamed Gafford whenever he got the ball, and at times sent three defenders at him.

"They were real physical with me and made sure I didn't get inside," Gafford said. "Pushing me every time and sending two, three people every time to box me out."

Getting Gafford -- who is averaging 16.5 points and shooting an SEC-best 64.7 percent from the field -- more involved in the offense will be a focal point for the Razorbacks (10-7, 1-4 SEC) when they play Missouri (10-6, 1-3) at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Walton Arena.

During the Razorbacks' four-game losing streak, Gafford has combined to shoot 65.7 percent (23 of 35) against Florida and LSU at home, and at Tennessee and Ole Miss.

That's quality shooting for Arkansas' best player, not but enough quantity at just 8.8 attempts per game.

Take away Gafford shooting 14 of 19 in a 94-88 overtime loss to LSU, and he averaged 5.3 attempts against Florida, Tennessee and Ole Miss.

"We definitely have to do a better job of getting him touches where he needs to get the ball," Razorbacks freshman guard Isaiah Joe said after the Ole Miss game. "Right now, he's not getting enough touches."

Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said the Razorbacks need to do a better job of spacing the floor so that when opposing defenses surround Gafford, he can pass the ball to open shooters.

"Daniel is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so," Anderson said. "He's played so well, and the attention -- with two or three people around him -- our spacing hasn't been the greatest.

"If our spacing was good enough, you'd see those guys being the recipients of some good passes from him. But [opponents] are coming at him and saying, 'Hey, those other guys are going to have to beat us.' So our other guys are going to have to step it up and make shots and make plays and take care of the basketball."

Anderson said effort isn't a problem for Gafford.

"I think he's giving us everything he can," Anderson said. "But that's what happens from not being on the scouting report [last season] to on the top of the scouting report."

Anderson said the Razorbacks needed better execution and to get the ball to Gafford after they cut a 49-35 deficit at Ole Miss to 49-43.

Arkansas had the ball to further cut into the Rebels' lead, but sophomore guard Mason Jones missed a three-pointer and Ole Miss went on a 13-2 run to move ahead 62-45.

During that stretch of the game, the Razorbacks were 0 of 5 on three-pointers, with their only basket a layup by Gabe Osabuohien. Gafford took one shot during the Rebels' decisive run, missing inside.

"I didn't think they had an answer for Dan if we continued to have patience and get the ball inside," Anderson said. "But I thought we sped up and played too fast, and then of course Ole Miss took advantage of that."

Anderson said Gafford needs to be "the centerpiece" for Arkansas' offense.

"He's got to be able to touch the ball -- even if he doesn't shoot it," Anderson said. "I think he's a willing passer. He's not a black hole.

"And those other guys have got to be able to play off him. That to me is the execution part that we've got to get better at."

Gafford said he needs to do a better job of moving to get open rather than just posting up with his back to the basket.

"I could have been setting screens, off-the-ball screens or ball screens for the guard," Gafford said of his play at Ole Miss. "It's just that I was standing in one spot too much during the game, and I was crowding up the lane.

"Other guys can screen for me. They can come off my screens and I'll be open for that. Or they can move around to keep the paint from being cluttered, and if I get the ball inside on the post, they can just cut to the basket. Find the easy lane to the hoop and get the layup."

Sports on 01/22/2019

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