Yes, it’s early, but …
Anderson: So far, so good for Hogs (2-0)
FAYETTEVILLE — It’s been 70 years since the Arkansas Razorbacks’ men’s basketball team blew out its first two opponents by more points than it did in pounding Samford and Bucknell in its 2-0 start.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville beat Samford 95-56 last Friday night and Bucknell 101-73 on Sunday.
It was the first time the
Razorbacks have won each of their first two games by at least 28 points since the 19471948 season, when Arkansas beat Pittsburg (Kan.) State 75-42 and Culver-Stockton (Mo.) 68-36.
Beating Samford and Bucknell by a combined 57 points was especially impressive because the Bulldogs and Bison are expected to contend for NCAA Tournament bids.
Samford returned all of its starters from last season’s 20-16 team, added Alabama transfer guard Justin Coleman and was picked to finish second in the Southern Conference in a preseason poll.
Bucknell returned its top nine players from a 26-10 team that won the Patriot League regular season and tournament titles and lost to West Virginia 86-80 in the NCAA Tournament.
“We feel real comfortable,” said Arkansas senior guard Jaylen Barford, who scored a career-high 27 points against Bucknell. “We’ve just been putting in a lot of time, a lot of preparation.
“We’re really excited about the season. So we’re just trying to show everybody what we’re about, and we haven’t reached our full peak yet.”
The Razorbacks don’t have a full roster with freshman guard Khalil Garland not medically cleared to play and senior forwards Dustin Thomas and Arlando Cook practicing with the team, but sitting out games because of disciplinary suspensions.
“I think we’ve got some pretty good pieces,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “I think the veteran guys right now are the ones kind of holding it together.”
Barford is averaging 21.5 points per game, senior guard Daryl Macon 18.5 and senior guard Anton Beard 12.5.
“When you look at those three guards, it just seems like they’re so different than they were last year,” Anderson said. “They’re the calming force out there, as well as Trey Thompson.”
Thompson, a senior forward, is averaging 5.0 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Bucknell Coach Nathan Davis was asked what he thought of Barford and Macon as a backcourt duo after they combined for 48 points against his team.
“I’d like not to think of them anymore,” Davis said, managing a chuckle. “They’re really, really good.
“Macon is tremendous. He hits threes off the dribble, he hits them off the turn. He gets in the lane, he doesn’t turn the ball over.
“He’s got to be an All-SEC player, I would think. Not that I see a ton of SEC once we stop playing them, but he’s good.” Freshman guard Darious Hall
Davis said Barford looked like an All-SEC player as well.
“Based off today?” he said. “Yes.”
Arkansas sophomore forward Adrio Bailey is averaging 11.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots. Sophomore guard C.J. Jones is averaging 8.5 points.
Daniel Gafford, a 6-11 freshman and the Razorbacks’ most heralded newcomer, is averaging 12.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Freshman guard Darious Hall is averaging 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds and freshman forward Gabe Osabuohien has helped off the bench, averaging 11.0 minutes.
“It’s a lot of fun, obviously as you can tell,” Macon said of the team’s start. “Our young guys are even playing good.
“This is their first couple games, fresh out of high school. So seeing them go there and jell together with us, it’s amazing.
“It’s a great feeling to see that, knowing we worked so hard, and we’re so overlooked. We’re just working harder every day.”
Arkansas led Bucknell 5634 at halftime after the Razorbacks shot 55.6 percent from the field (20 of 36) and held the Bison to 37.5 percent (12 of 32).
“Coming in, we thought Arkansas had a very good team and I think they showed that they do,” Davis said. “In the first half, I actually thought we didn’t play that poorly.
“They just made a ton of shots and were able to take advantage of some of the mistakes we made.”
Arkansas finished the game shooting 53.5 percent (38 of 71) and outscored Bucknell 25-8 on second-chance points — thanks to a 41-25 rebounding edge — and 2915 in points off turnovers.
“You watch them on film and they really, really compete,” Davis said. “They play very hard defensively. Offensively, they’re extraordinarily unselfish. They keep making simple play after simple play and make you pay for mistakes.
“Coach Anderson does a great job and his guys compete. I think they’ve got a very, very good team.”
Through two games, the Razorbacks are shooting 55.2 percent from the field (74 of 134), including 40.5 percent on three-pointers (15 of 37). They have a plus-9.5 rebounding margin and plus-6.5 turnover margin.
“They like each other, they’re playing for each other. But it’s early on and I caution that,” Anderson said. “When you make shots — and we’ve been making some shots — it energizes your defense.
“What happens when you don’t make those shots? That’s what I want to see.”
The Razorbacks’ final shot against Bucknell was a three-point basket by sophomore walk-on guard Jonathan Holmes with 11 seconds left. He dove on the floor to knock the loose ball to a teammate, then got the ball back.
As soon as the game ended, the Razorbacks mobbed Holmes.
“They’re there for each other,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first guy off the bench or the last guy, they’re out there really rooting and cheering for each other.
“This is a true team right now. They’ve got a brotherhood, and that’s special.”
Arkansas guard Daniel Gafford drives to the basket against Bucknell’s Nana Foulland during Sunday’s victory at Walton Arena in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks won their first two games of the season by at least 28 points for the first time since the 1947-1948 season.
is averaging 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game for the Razorbacks in their first two games, helping give the Hogs depth on a bench missing three players because of medical issues and suspensions.