FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Turns out Arkansas might get Daniel Gafford for one season after all.
The Razorbacks freshman center was extraordinary in just his third college basketball game. Fresno State had zero answer for the 6-foot-11, 230-pounder from El Dorado, Arkansas, in the Hogs’ 83-75 win Friday night.
Gafford dropped 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting, grabbed 8 rebounds, blocked 3 shots and had 2 steals in 30 minutes. Coach Mike Anderson pulled him with just less than four minutes to play and the Razorbacks ahead by a comfortable 15 points.
Time and again Gafford brought the more than 12,000 people inside Bud Walton Arena to their feet. Six of his nine buckets were dunks, including all five of his second-half field goals. For an Arkansas program still aiming to impress an anxious fan base, Gafford is the perfect bell cow.
Otherwise, however, Friday night was mostly ordinary. It was, on a whole, Arkansas’ least dynamic performance. Some credit is due to Fresno State, which is a far better team than the Razorbacks’ two previous opponents (Samford and Bucknell).
The Bulldogs, after being down by the low teens for about 25 minutes, rallied to trim Arkansas’ lead to nine with 1:59 left. Not coincidentally, that run came with Gafford on the bench.
It was the sort of game Arkansas needed someone to showcase. It just so happened to be Gafford. He was joined in double figures by Jaylen Barford (18) and Anton Beard (15). Bryson Williams led Fresno State with 22 points.
All Gafford. Others played well, but this night was the freshman’s showcase.
Keep a close eye on him next week when Arkansas plays three games in four days at the Phil Knight Invitational. Two of those will come against major-conference opponents.
Shooting was not great. At least, not 3-point shooting.
That’s a bit of a concern against some teams this year, too. Arkansas made just 4 of its 14 3-pointers against Fresno State.
There are going to be nights when the Razorbacks can’t out-athletic opponents and will need to be hitting from deep to counter. Fortunately for Arkansas on Friday, Fresno State was not such a team to contend with.
What’s next for Arkansas?
Thursday, Nov. 23