FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks they picked up Tuesday night against the Colorado State Rams where they left off last Saturday night against the Houston Cougars in Houston.
However unlike never recovering from Houston’s game-opening 11-0 run and losing, 91-65, to the Cougars, the Razorbacks picked themselves up from the Rams’ game-opening 10-0 run and peak 13-2 lead at 16:10 of the first half by responding with a 19-0 run romping the Razorbacks toward a 92-66 victory.
Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks of the SEC improve to 6-2 and host the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the Big Ten Saturday night at Walton.
Coach Larry Eustachy’s Rams of the Mountain West and fresh off a home victory over Colorado of the Pac 12, fall to 4-5 and visit the Pac 12’s Oregon Ducks Saturday in Eugene, Ore.
Replacing the five Arkansas senior starters that opened trailing 13-4, the Razorbacks’ off the bench comeback was fueled by freshman forwards Daniel Gafford of El Dorado and Darious Hall of Little Rock Mills and sophomore guard C.J. Jones.
Gafford galvanized the previously stunned crowd with big shot-block and eventual big dunk followed at 13:37 by completing an and-one 3-point play.
Enter Hall taking a charge on one end and hitting a 3-pointer on the other before a Gafford putback gave Arkansas its first lead, 14:13 at 12:04.
A Jones steal and layup followed by his 3-pointer completed the 19-0 run with Arkansas up 21-13 at 10:15.
Outrebounded 10-2 at the outset, Arkansas closed the first-half rebounding gap to 23-17 and amazingly played the first half turnover free to Colorado State’s nine miscues They outscored the Rams 14-0 on first-half turnovers.
“That’s a big a stat as I’ve seen all year,” Eustachy said.”That’s a bunch of players playing together and taking care of the basketball.”
Even with the Rams hot start, Eustachy said he knew Anderson’s Hogs defensively would speed tempo and right their ship.
“That was fool’s gold,” Eustachy said. “ I think the fact they lost to Houston, we caught this team at the wrong time. They certainly played the right team at the right time in us. We’ve lost five times that way. This was way too much Arkansas. Mike is a tremendous coach and gets you going too fast.”
“The first five or six minutes eemed like a hangover from Houston,” Anderson said. “Seemed like we were playing lethargic . The thing I like about our basketball team is think our bench is very, very important. They came out an brought energy and defensive intensity and established our inside presence with Daniel. They had good ball movement, 22 assists after only seven (at Houston) and of course C.J. comes out and he was lighting it up. But I thought it was all triggered by our defense.”
Gafford said the bench infused controlled energy.
“When we come off the bench Coach looks at us and says, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come in with energy and you’ve got to come in and defend. If you can’t do that, then you’re coming out of the game,’” Gafford said. “But being in situations like that, you’ve got train yourself not to panic. Because if you panic, they’re going to lead extend the lead even more. So we just had to calm down and come together and be able to loosen that lead up some.”
Razorbacks senior starting guards Jaylen Barford, 19 points for the game, and Daryl Macon, 9 points for the game and a game-leading 7 assists, asserted themselves in the second half. They scored 9 of the second half’s first 12 points.