Arkansas bas­ket­ball to take on West­ern Ken­tucky.

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Nate Allen

FAYET­TEVILLE - NBA scouts are ex­pected to flock to Fayet­teville to see to­day’s bat­tle of the big men be­tween Arkansas Razorbacks 6-11 pre­sea­son First-Team All-SEC cen­ter Daniel Gaf­ford of El Do­rado and West­ern Ken­tucky 6-11 fresh­man Max Preps All-Amer­i­can Charles Bassey of Nige­ria via St. An­thony’s High School in San Antonio, Texas and As­pire Acad­emy in Louisville, Ky.

Arkansas coach Mike An­der­son cer­tainly sees why the scouts so­journ to Wal­ton Arena for to­day’s 2:30 p.m. game tele­vised by the SEC Net­work be­tween the 6-1 Razorbacks and 4-4 Hill­top­pers of Rick Stans­bury, the sec­ond-year WKU coach, but for­mer long­time Mis­sis­sippi State head coach and most re­cently the top as­sis­tant to Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy.

Gaf­ford av­er­ages 18.7 points and 8.7 re­bounds and has blocked 15 shots in 14 games. He scored a ca­reer-high 27 points ear­lier this sea­son against In­di­ana.

Bassey av­er­ages 13.8 points, 9.6 re­bounds and has blocked 19 shots in eight games.

“It’s go­ing to be a tremen­dous matchup,” An­der­son said. “I mean, two big guys that are re­ally mo­bile and ag­ile. I think Daniel’s got to con­tinue to do the things he’s been do­ing. Be hard to guard.”

What im­presses about Bassey?

“He’s got a big-time mo­tor and has a great pair of hands,” An­der­son said. “He can score. He’s a very, very tal­ented kid. Very tal­ented. But to me, it’s not go­ing to be just about those two guys. It’s go­ing to be about West­ern Ken­tucky ver­sus Arkansas.”

Re­turn­ing only Gaf­ford, junior start­ing for­ward Adrio Bai­ley, a semi-reg­u­lar starter last sea­son, and sopho­more re­serve for­ward Gabe Os­abuo­hien as schol­ar­ship play­ers off last sea­son’s 23-12 team, An­der­son’s young Razorbacks rank among the sur­prises of the young sea­son.

Arkansas has won six straight af­ter open­ing the sea­son as heavy un­der­dogs, but hav­ing heav­ily fa­vored Texas on the ropes be­fore los­ing 73-71 in over­time at the ESPN Armed Forces Clas­sic at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

Stans­bury’s Hill­top­pers of Con­fer­ence USA may not seem so im­pos­ing at 4-4 com­ing off a loss at Mis­souri State.

But Mis­souri State’s

Bears are al­ways tough to beat in Spring­field, Mo.

The Hill­top­pers’ other losses are at tra­di­tion­ally tough Wash­ing­ton, at In­di­ana State, and to the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Florida at the Myr­tle Beach In­vi­ta­tional.

At that Myr­tle Beach In­vi­ta­tional, the Hill­top­pers de­feated tra­di­tional pow­ers Val­paraiso and the Bob Hug­gins coached then na­tion­ally No. 24 West Vir­ginia Moun­taineers.

Stans­bury adds Bassey to a Hill­top­pers team that last sea­son went 27-11 and to the semi­fi­nals of the post­sea­son NIT in New York.

“Their record might not in­di­cate how good a team they re­ally are,” An­der­son said. “They’ve played a tough sched­ule. They’re a very good bas­ket­ball team. Coach Stans­bury, some­one we are very fa­mil­iar with at Mis­sis­sippi State and then he was at A&M as as­so­ciate head coach and he’s got some tremen­dous play­ers over there. It’s an ex­pe­ri­enced team ver­sus our team which is an in­ex­pe­ri­enced team. It’s go­ing to be about wills and tempo and who can get the tempo to their lik­ing.”

Bassey has WKU’s most recognition from the NBA tal­ent scouts, but it’s guard Taveion Hollingsworth, a 17.3 av­er­age in­clud­ing 14-of-32 threes, lead­ing the Hill­top­pers’ scor­ing. Small for­ward Jared Sav­age is next at 14.1 with Bassey’s 13.8 third among WKU scor­ers.

The Hogs are quite fa­mil­iar with WKU’s fourth lead­ing scorer, grad­u­ate trans­fer guard Desean Mur­ray, who av­er­ages 10.9 points. A grad­u­ate of Auburn with el­i­gi­bil­ity re­main­ing, Mur­ray scored 15 on Arkansas when the Tigers beat last sea­son’s Razorbacks 88-77 at Auburn, Ala., but only scored three when Arkansas beat Auburn 91-82 in the SEC re­match at Wal­ton.

Arkansas proved in its 98-74 vic­tory over Colorado State Wed­nes­day night in Fort Collins, Colo., that Stans­bury can’t game plan just on stop­ping Gaf­ford.

Colorado State’s Rams were so “de­ter­mined,” An­der­son said, to stop Gaf­ford in­side that they left the perime­ter open for Razorbacks gun­ning guards Ma­son Jones, 4-of-8 threes and 16 points, Isa­iah Joe, 4-of9 threes and 14 points and fresh­man Keyshawn Em­berySimp­son, a siz­zling 4-of-5 threes off the bench scor­ing a ca­reer-high 14.

Ac­tu­ally it was re­serve for­wards Reg­gie Chaney, the fresh­man scor­ing 11 points, and sopho­more Gabe Os­abuo­hien, five points and five boards in nine min­utes, who got it go­ing in­side be­fore Gaf­ford tal­lied 10 of his game’s 12 points in the sec­ond half, An­der­son said.

An­der­son was most im­pressed that in Fort Collins of Arkansas’ 38 field goals, 28 were as­sisted.

Sopho­more point guard Jalen Harris dished them by the dozen against just two turnovers.

“More and more he’s tak­ing com­mand out there,” An­der­son said of Harris’ ex­am­ple be­come con­ta­gious. “Twenty-eight as­sists on 38 field goals. That’s trust­ing one an­other.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Slammed: Arkansas' Daniel Gaf­ford (10), a for­mer stand­out at El Do­rado, dunks over Colorado State's Adam Thistle­wood (31) dur­ing their game Wed­nes­day in Fort Collins, Colo. Arkansas hosts West­ern Ken­tucky to­day.

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