Postgame Thoughts: Arkansas 84, Providence 72

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Arkansas' Gabe Osabuohien (22) reacts after making a three-pointer during the first half of a first round NCAA National Invitation Tournament college basketball game against Providence in Providence, R.I., Tuesday, March 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Arkansas' Gabe Osabuohien (22) reacts after making a three-pointer during the first half of a first round NCAA National Invitation Tournament college basketball game against Providence in Providence, R.I., Tuesday, March 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

First things first, Arkansas is not a better basketball team without Daniel Gafford, but the Razorbacks were the superior team Tuesday night in Rhode Island.

Both things can be true.

Arkansas pounded Providence 84-72 to advance to meet Indiana in Assembly Hall in the second round of the NIT. Without Gafford, who declared for the NBA Draft on Monday prior to the team departing for Providence, Arkansas had no issue putting away the Friars, whose season comes to an end at 18-16.

The date and time for Arkansas-Indiana has not yet been announced.

"I had a saying for the guys. I said, 'You are the sum of all its parts,'" Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said following the win, the Razorbacks' 18th of the season. "When you've got all the parts coming out and playing well and doing the things they do, you've got a chance to be pretty good.

"That looked like one of our basketball teams that (was) predicated on their defense and then created some easy offense for us. We did a good job of really spreading the floor and taking advantage of the mismatches we had."

Arkansas, in terms of offensive efficiency (116.5), turned in its fifth-best game of the season. Three of the Razorbacks' top five offensive ratings figures have come since the calendar hit March - Vanderbilt, Alabama, Providence. Arkansas was led in scoring by Mason Jones, who added 18 off the bench.

Jones was likely itching for a bounce-back game Tuesday after scoring just 15 combined points in the Razorbacks' last two games against Alabama and Florida. His four 3s one-upped the Friars' night from beyond the arc. He added four rebounds and four assists in the win as well.

"I thought we came out with a street-fight mentality and I thought our energy was good," Anderson said. "Guys coming off our bench gave us great, great minutes. Everybody that went into that game I thought contributed in a big way."

Anderson added that his team may not have a player capable of scoring 29 points and grabbing 16 rebounds as Gafford did against Alabama on March 9, but his forwards had that kind of night by committee. Reggie Chaney, Gabe Osabuohien and Adrio Bailey combined for 30 points and 15 rebounds. Chaney scored a career-high 14 points, Osabuohien added 11 - his first game in double figures since Jan. 19 - and Bailey chipped in five in 18 minutes.

Chaney, on top of his career night scoring the ball, blocked a career-high seven shots as well, becoming just the second player in Anderson's tenure at Arkansas to finish with at least 14 points, seven blocks and five rebounds in a game. Gafford did it twice in a two-week span in February 2018.

"He was like a wrecking crew right there, blocking shots, coming up with tough, tough rebounds," Anderson added on Chaney. "It was a total team effort. ... One of the bigger plays in the game when they were making a run was Reggie's stickback."

The putback Anderson referenced came on a Jalen Harris missed layup. Chaney's tip-in answered a quick 5-0 Providence run that cut the Razorbacks' lead to 13 with seven minutes to play.

Osabuohien, to go with his 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds and was a plus-15 in 17 minutes. Ethan Henderson, who had played 28 minutes all season, pitched in six points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.

"We knew that because we lost Dan, who's averaging a lot of points and a lot of rebounds, that everyone had to step up," Osabuohien said. "It wasn't just going to be one person stepping up. Everyone has to step up in everything we do and we knew if we did that then we would come out victorious."

Isaiah Joe, although he didn't have one of his patented nights from beyond the extended 3-point line Tuesday, still finished with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and a block to end the first half in front of the Arkansas bench. Desi Sills added eight points on 2-of-4 from 3-point range, too.

The Razorbacks shot better than 45 percent from 3-point range for the fifth time in the last six games. Outside of Joe, the rest of the team combined to hit 8-of-13 from distance. Keyshawn Embery-Simpson, who did not play in the loss to Florida last Thursday with a bad left foot, hit a 3 in seven minutes.

"We did a good job of moving the ball, cutting, screening, hard cutting and, of course, on the road you've got to make shots," Anderson said. "We had a lot of that that took place tonight, but that forward position was good. Guard play was good, too."

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