Gafford scores 21 to lead Arkansas past UT-Arlington, 78-60
The Arkansas forward has taken to this whole leading role thing quite nicely during his encore performance.
Gafford scored 21 points to lead the Razorbacks to their fourth straight victory with a 78-60 win over Texas-Arlington on Friday night.
The 6-foot-11 sophomore was a career-best 9 of 10 from the free throw line and helped Arkansas overcome a sluggish shooting start and stay undefeated in eight games against the Mavericks. Gafford has now scored 20 or more points in three games already this season after doing so only twice all of last season.
“I’m taking it as it goes,” Gafford said. “I’ve got to be one of the main scorers on the team, and so I’ve got to come out every night and let the game come to me (and) play the way I play.”
It was Gafford, however, who controlled the action throughout — doing so playing only 22 minutes and sitting out the final 9:26 after being called for his fourth foul.
The sophomore finished 6 of 10 from the field and has made 26 of his last 33 shots (78.8 percent) over his last three games. He also added to his lengthy above-the-rim highlight reel with a pair of alley-oop dunks late in the first half to help Arkansas overcome a 4-of-20 shooting start to open the game.
“(Gafford is) obviously a lottery pick and a huge factor,” first-year Texas-Arlington coach Chris Ogden said.
Edric Dennis had 19 points to lead the Mavericks (3-3), who played Indiana close until late in a loss earlier this week. Brian Warren added 15 points as the Sun Belt Conference school fell to 1-14 all-time against current members of the Southeastern Conference.
Arkansas led for all but the opening point of the game, doing so despite the slow shooting start.
Even with Gafford on the bench for much of the second half, the Razorbacks pulled away and won comfortably despite shooting only 38 percent (21 of 55) from the field.
“I think we had a much better rhythm in the second half,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “The first half, it was kind of like they were still over at my house for Thanksgiving.”
As goes Gafford, so go the youthful Razorbacks — an early season trend that continued on Friday night. The reigning SEC Player of the Week scored in double figures for the fifth time this season and is now shooting 72.6 percent (37 of 51) after deciding to return for his sophomore season. Gafford scored 12 of his points against the Mavericks in the first half while Arkansas was struggling to pull away, and he’s proven to be the mainstay on a Razorbacks team that entered the season with only three scholarship returners from last season’s NCAA Tournament squad.
The Razorbacks forced a season-worst 19 turnovers by Texas-Arlington, and they held the Mavericks to a season-low 33 percent (18 of 55) shooting. Bailey had three steals and two blocks, and Gafford added a pair of steals to aid in the defensive effort.
Texas-Arlington finishes off a three-game road trip by facing Tulsa on Nov. 27.
The Razorbacks play their fifth straight at home when they host Florida International on Dec. 1.