Arkansas starts fast, routs Montana State 90-68
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Jalen Harris put in a lot of time on his own last season to keep his game sharp, waiting on his opportunity to take the court for Arkansas.
After transferring from New Mexico, Harris redshirted last season under NCAA rules, but he did not sit idly by. Instead he recruited a pair of former teammates to work out with him after hours to make sure he was in the best shape possible when this season rolled around.
That effort is starting to pay off, and it was never more evident than on Wednesday night. Harris recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists as Arkansas routed Montana State 90-68.
“I just tried to stay in the gym and work hard,” said Harris, who matched his season-high in points. “I used to always hit up Daryl (Macon) and Jalen (Barford) and ask them what I needed to do, what gamelike things I need to work on and they always told me. So by having those guys around, it really helped out.”
It also helps that Harris has sophomore post Daniel Gafford playing at a high level. Gafford, who was named the SEC player of the week after his career-high 27 points against Indiana on Sunday, was a perfect 8 of 8 from the floor Wednesday night, most of those off feeds from Harris, and scored 16 points.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Harris said of Gafford’s almost 80-percent shooting through four games. “Just get it to him down there and you know he has a good possibility of making it, so you keep feeding him.”
The Razorbacks (3-1) were never threatened in Wednesday’s one-sided win. Mason Jones, whose key rebound and free throw with 2.5 seconds left lifted the Razorbacks to a 73-72 win against Indiana, scored the first seven points of the game for Arkansas (3-1) and finished with a team-high 18 points, one of five Arkansas players to score in double figures.
Montana State (1-5) fell behind quickly under the Arkansas scoring barrage, but senior guard Tyler Hall did his part to keep the score respectable at 54-38 at halftime by scoring 23 points, including seven 3-pointers. Hall finished with 29 points.
The Razorbacks forced 24 Montana State turnovers and recorded 13 steals to go along with 29 assists.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said he was pleased with his team’s energy, especially to start the game.
“Early on we made a lot of shots, but our defense was really on-point,” Anderson said. “Montana State eventually found a nice little groove, a lot of it attributed to the Hall kid. He started really knocking down some shots that were in Al Dillard’s range. I mean guys were on him. But I thought in the second half we did a better job of adjusting and making him work for his shot.”
Arkansas’ schedule sets up favorably over the next eight games — six of them at home in Fayetteville and one in North Little Rock — for the Razorbacks to head into SEC play at 10-1.
HE SAID IT
Wednesday’s game is the second of a three-game stretch over six days for Arkansas, but Gafford said the Razorbacks would rather play games than practice.
“We’re just having fun because we’re actually getting to play somebody besides ourselves,” Gafford said. “It’s a good feeling. It’s way better than practice.”
Arkansas got 25 points off the bench, including eight from Reggie Chaney to go along with five rebounds. . The Razorbacks scored 29 points off the 24 turnovers and were 10 of 10 on dunks. . Montana State had 18 offensive rebounds, a statistic Anderson said the Razorbacks needed to improve on.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks play host to Texas-Arlington on Friday, its third game in six days. It will be the third game of the four-game Hardwood Showcase. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
Montana State: The Bobcats will be on the road at Omaha on Saturday, its fourth straight road game.