Arkansas shoots past UC Davis from deep, 81-58
By ANDREW EPPERSON
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) After missing 15 free throws in the first half, Arkansas regrouped from the line to shoot almost 78 percent after intermission and handle UC Davis, 81-58, on Monday night.
Arkansas relied on two 20-point scorers, neither named Daniel Gafford, to fend off an Aggies squad that trailed by only seven at half and hung around in the second until the Hogs' offense re-emerged to put the game away. Sophomore guard Mason Jones led the team with 21 points and eight rebounds, and junior forward Adrio Bailey scored a career-high 20 with a strong, 16-point second half.
"(Gafford) is gonna be the centerpiece in terms of what we're trying to do," Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson said. "At the same time, we saw tonight, we've got two 20-point scorers, and it wasn't Daniel. How about that?"
The Preseason All-SEC First-Team selection scored 12 points and had four blocks, but he wasn't his usual, dominant self in the post. For the second-straight game to open the season, he racked up six turnovers due to constant double teams, and he was often taken out of rebounding position, grabbing only four.
"He's just gotta be a little bit more efficient and not be as sloppy," Anderson said. "You've gotta man up, and that's gonna be my message to him. You've got the attention. You wanted it, you've got it. So, now you've gotta be able to handle it."
Razorback newcomers continued to prove their ability to score when the opposition puts its defensive energy on Gafford. Along with Jones and Bailey, freshman guard Isaiah Joe poured in 14 points and hit two 3-pointers.
Still, it was Bailey's second-half scoring outburst, which included his first career three and a 9-for-11 free-throw clip, that played perhaps the biggest role in Arkansas' victory.
"I stayed in the lab working on my craft, . and it just carried over to the game," Bailey said. "It's definitely something I've been working on. A lot of long nights, staying up until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, knowing that they've got parties going on, but you just have to make sacrifices."
T.J. Shorts, the reigning Big West Player of the Year, led UC Davis with 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Anderson said he was proud of Arkansas' defensive effort in keeping Shorts relatively in check.
"With young guys, they're always tied to offense," Anderson said, referencing how pleased he's been with his young squad's defensive effort in its first two games. "This team scored 58 points. That's pretty darn good defense. Texas shot 19 percent in the second half. That's pretty good defense."
Arkansas: The Razorbacks continued their tendency to shoot well from the three-point arc but poorly from the free-throw line. The 8-for-20 clip from deep brought their average to just over 38 percent in two regular season games, while the 27-for-41 struggle at the free throw line moved them to 60.2 percent in those two contests plus two exhibitions.
UC Davis: Though the Aggies have lost three straight to open the season, their increased competitiveness has showed up on the scoreboard. After losing by 34 in their season-opener to San Francisco, they were able to mostly hang around against an SEC opponent on the road. With 10 upperclassmen on the roster, the Aggies expect to be a tough matchup in Big West play after a grueling non-conference schedule that also includes games at Indiana, Arizona and USC.
Arkansas welcomes Big 10 opponent Indiana to Fayetteville on Nov. 18.
The Aggies return home to face Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Saturday.
Updated November 13, 2018