Arkansas, playing with only eight scholarship players, finally put away an energetic Central Oklahoma team 78-66 on Friday night in Bud Walton Arena before an estimated 4,052 fans.
The Razorbacks were without freshman Darious Hall (concussion protocol) and seniors Dustin Thomas (violation of team rules) and Arlando Cook (suspended) as well as freshman Khalil Garland (medical) and sophomore Jalen Harris (redshirt transfer). Mike Anderson talked about Hall, Thomas and Cook not playing.
"We were shorthanded and I thought it really had an affect on the game," Anderson said. "I thought our guys kind of wore down.
"Darious, I think it was probably two or three days ago he bumped heads with somebody in practice and was a little woozy. We held him out as a precaution. In terms of Dustin Thomas, he’s a guy that’s going to miss these games here and possibly three more. His is a violation of team rules. Cook’s situation is still pending. We’re just waiting until the law takes its course."
How disappointed are you that Thomas put himself into the situation of being suspended?
"You’re a fifth-year senior," Anderson said. "I think you should know. You put your heart and soul (into it), you worked hard to get to this point and I think you let down your team."
Once again, the Hogs were led by its senior guard combo of Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. Arkansas' third senior guard, Anton Beard, also scored in double figures. Macon led the way with 23 points while also adding five assists and three rebounds. Barford had 19 points, six assists and five rebounds. Beard added 12 points, three assists and two steals. Barford talked about trying to do other things than just score in the game.
"I was trying to get my teammates involved," Barford said.
Anderson talked about Arkansas' performance as it was his first chance to see them against another team's players.
"It wasn’t very fluid like I want it to be, especially in the first half," Anderson said. "We made some shots in the second half, but I wasn’t very satisfied with our defense. I thought we were just trying to play more with offense. In the second half, our defense became our offense and that first three minutes was pretty good basketball with our defense revving up what we were doing."
True freshman Daniel Gafford scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the Red-White game. However, against the Bronchos, he had just eight points and seven rebounds though he did lead the team in steals with three. He played 15 minutes in the game. Barford was asked about Gafford and what he can bring to the team.
"I think once he got comfortable and started playing his game he affected it a lot," Barford said. "He brought a lot of energy out there getting rebounds and altering shots. I think once he gets comfortable he will be alright."
Anderson also was asked about Gafford's performance which included just making 2 of 6 at the charity stripe.
"Daniel looked like a typical freshman in the first half, but in the second half, I thought we saw him impose his will out there on the floor," Anderson said. "He’s relentless. The only thing that has to get better for him is at the free throw line."
The Razorbacks led 45-35 at intermission and then tried to pull away in the second half. Both teams started cold from the field with the first basket of the game coming with 17:29 left in the opening half. Trey Thompson got inside for a basket to break the icy start to the game that matched the cold weather outside. The Hogs overcame the slow start to the game to shoot 48.4 percent from the field and 58.3 from behind the 3-point line making seven of 12 at intermission.
Arkansas' biggest lead of the game was 52-35 and came with 17:42 left in the game. The Bronchos refused to go away and pulled within six, 72-66, with 1:25 remaining in the game. However Macon added four points and Barford two in the remaining 1:25 to keep the Hogs on top and get the win.
Trey Thompson led the Hogs with eight rebounds while adding four points, two assists, one block and a steal. Adrio Bailey also got the starting spot with Thompson inside. He added four points, seven rebounds, two assists, one block and a steal.
Central Oklahoma Coach Tom Hankins was very complimentary of the Razorbacks and Anderson.
"Arkansas obviously wasn't at full strength," Hankins said. "We didn't that 100-percent from them because they were limited on scholarship players."
The Bronchos were led by Marqueese Grayson with 16 points while Corbin Byford added 12 and Jordan London 11. Byford had eight rebounds. Hankins talked about his team's experience.
"We have an older team," Hankins said. "We've got two guys that are in their sixth year of college, another in his fifth year and another two in their fourth year. We are a veteran team. We have a lot of guys that have been through a lot and have veteran experience."
Arkansas will return to the court on Friday to host Missouri Western in the final exhibition game of the season. It will tip at 7 p.m.