Yes, it’s early, but …

An­der­son: So far, so good for Hogs (2-0)

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BOB HOLT

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.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

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...

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

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.

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