SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL:

Gafford goes off as Hogs beat Tide

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2019
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford celebrates at the final horn Saturday, March 9, 2019, during the Razorbacks' 82-70 win over Alabama in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford celebrates at the final horn Saturday, March 9, 2019, during the Razorbacks' 82-70 win over Alabama in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Alabama Coach Avery Johnson still hasn't beaten the University of Arkansas basketball team.

The Razorbacks defeated Johnson and the Crimson Tide again, 82-70, on Saturday in Walton Arena before an announced crowd of 9,815.

Johnson, the former NBA point guard and head coach who is in his fourth season at Alabama, fell to 0-4 against Arkansas.

The Razorbacks (17-14, 8-10) are the only SEC team Johnson hasn't beaten since taking the Alabama job.

"We knew that coming into the season," Johnson said. "It was both Kentucky and Arkansas."

The Crimson Tide gave Johnson his first victory over Kentucky when they opened SEC play by beating the Wildcats 77-75 at home, but they still can't solve the Razorbacks.

"We started off SEC play on a high note," Johnson said. "We're ending on a little bit of a down note.

"Arkansas is tough. They've always had big guys here that have given us problems."

Alabama's big problem Saturday was Daniel Gafford, the Razorbacks' 6-11 sophomore from El Dorado.

Gafford, possibly playing his final home game because he's projected as a first-round NBA Draft pick, led Arkansas with 29 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, 2 blocked shots and 2 assists. He hit 11 of 17 shots and 7 of 9 free throws.

"What a performance by Daniel," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought he was playing on another stratosphere it seemed like."

The fans gave Gafford a standing ovation when Anderson took him out of the game with 1:24 left after the Razorbacks had pushed their lead to 79-62.

Some fans chanted, "One more year! One more year!"

Johnson played in the NBA as a point guard for 16 seasons and was a head coach with the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets for seven seasons.

"The guy's a pro," Johnson said of Gafford. "I'm not sure if I'm supposed to say that while he's in college. But I guess I would probably know one when I see it.

"He's long, he's athletic. He does a great job of picking and rolling. Unbelievable hands. So he's a handful. That's why he's an All-SEC player, and he'll have a career playing basketball."

After Alabama cut Arkansas' lead from 55-42 to 56-49 with 7:46 left on Kira Lewis' driving basket, Gafford scored 10 of the Hogs' next 13 points to push Arkansas' lead to 69-57.

Gafford started the run with back-to-back dunks -- the second with an alley-oop assist from Sills -- and also hit two free throws, scored on a layup, and made a spinning move in the lane.

"He was in the zone, and whenever somebody is in the zone like that, then you have to keep feeding them the ball because you could tell he was hungry out there and active," Arkansas freshman guard Isaiah Joe said. "He was doing his job on defense, and you can't do anything else but reward him, and that's what we did. He did a great job defending and finishing around the basket."

Gafford was on the bench for 4:04 of game time before going on his surge.

"So he was rested when he went back out there," Anderson said. "I thought he was much fresher."

Johnson said Gafford was too quick for the Tide's defense.

"We couldn't get our double-teams down there fast enough," Johnson said. "When he catches it deep, he's a handful.

"When you've got a guy like Gafford and [an opponent] is on a run, then you just basically go to your problem-solver. And that's what he did for them tonight. He solved a lot of problems."

Arkansas (17-14, 8-10 SEC) won its third consecutive game while Alabama (17-14, 8-10) lost its third in a row.

The Razorbacks have a five-game winning streak against Alabama (17-14, 8-10) and have won six of the teams' past seven meetings.

"Their team played an outstanding game," Johnson said. "They played with a lot of energy. It seemed like they got every 50-50 ball. So just congrats to them."

Joe had 15 points, a career-high 6 steals and matched his career-high with 6 rebounds. Sills, a freshman guard, had 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, and sophomore guard Mason Jones scored 8 points.

Junior forward Tevin Mack led Alabama with 14 points. Lewis, a freshman guard, scored 12 points.

"This being our last [home] game, I think the guys wanted to come out and really play well in front of our fans," Anderson said. "I thought that was one of the better games we played here at home."

Arkansas had eight turnovers compared to 15 for Alabama, which the Razorbacks converted into a 19-6 edge in points off turnovers.

"I thought we were consistent defensively the whole game, no matter who was on the floor," Anderson said. "I thought they brought energy, and I thought they brought effort.

"We disrupted Alabama -- and Alabama is a very good basketball team."

Anderson, a native of Birmingham, Ala., has turned around the Alabama series after starting 0-3 against the Tide when he became the Razorbacks' coach.

"We've been fortunate," Anderson said. "I don't think it's just Alabama. We try to beat everybody. I guess the ball has just bounced our way when we've played them."

Game sketch

RECORDS Arkansas 17-14, 8-10 SEC; Alabama 17-14, 8-10

STARS Razorbacks sophomore forward Daniel Gafford (29 points, career-high 16 rebounds) and freshman guard Isaiah Joe (15 points, 6 rebounds, 6 steals)

KEY STAT Arkansas outscored Alabama 19-6 in points off turnovers.

UP NEXT Arkansas plays Florida at noon Central on Thursday in Nashville, Tenn., at the SEC Tournament.

Sports on 03/10/2019

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