FAYETTEVILLE - On an icy Tuesday night in Northwest Arkansas the Arkansas Razorbacks rediscovered their basketball footing to stop a two-game losing skid and extend the South Carolina Gamecocks skidding to a fourth straight defeat.
Behind the offense of senior guards Daryl Macon, 25 points, and Jaylen Barford, 24 points, and solid defense including big blue-collar off the bench performances by previously nearly unused freshman forward Gabe Osabuohien and old reliable senior Trey Thompson, Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks prevailed, 81-65 at Walton Arena.
Arkansas takes 16-8 overall and 5-6 SEC records into Saturday night’s 7:30 SEC game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Walton.
Coach Frank Martin’s Gamecocks, losing four consecutively since upsetting the then 20th ranked Florida Gators in Gainesville, Fla., go 13-11, 4-7 into their Saturday rematch with Florida in Columbia, S.C.
Macon and Barford combined to hit 12 of 28 shots including a combined 8 for 17 3-points and combined to sink 17 of 19 from the free throw line.
With senior forward Dustin Thomas not used and senior forward Arlando Cook playing but five first-half minutes, Osabuohien bounded off the bench early for starter Adrio Bailey and logged career high 17 minutes. Osabuohien “impacted the game without firing a shot,” Anderson said, netting four rebounds and two assists, including a big rebound and assist for a Barford trey with the game still on the line in the second half. Osabuohien also took two charges, one for the fourth on Carolina guard Hassani Gravett, the Gamecocks high scorer with 12 points and game-high rebounder with seven.
“His energy shot through this whole team,” Anderson said.
Junior forward Chris Silva, the best returner from Martin’s senior-filled Final Four team of last season, was held to eight points and six rebounds Tuesday at Walton.
Thompson, the 6-9 Forrest City High grad logging 25 minutes with 6-11 freshman starter Daniel Gafford of El Dorado in foul trouble, grabbed a team high six rebounds and scored six points and blocked three shots.
Gafford made much of his limited 19 minutes tallying 11 points, grabbing five boards and blocking three shots.
Anderson also lauded sophomore reserve guard C.J. Jones, seven points and and four rebounds and an assist in19 minutes.
Whatever five Anderson had out there jelled defensively and accentuated Arkansas’ depth, Anderson and Martin both said.
“Great to see a good defensive effort by our team for the entire game. We started off the game playing defense and we finished the game playing defense and made bench play and fatigue a factor in this game.”
Martin lamented of Arkansas’ game-breaking 13-2 second-half run:
“We couldn't pass the ball from the point to the wing,” Martin said “ Guys couldn't dribble the ball, couldn't pass it point to wing. We had two guys that had the ball in their hands and they just took it from them. Then all we did was foul.”
South Carolina dotes on rebounding but only outboarded Arkansas by four and was victimized 26-11 in points off turnovers.
“You can’t beat Arkansas with a just a point guard,” Martin said. “They make all five of your guys make decisions. We haven’t played a team that plays like that. They are relentless.”
And between them Gafford, and Thompson, three each, and Hall combined to block seven South Carolina shots.
“We lead the country in shots getting blocked,” Martin said.
A 16-11 advantage was South Carolina’s biggest first-half lead before the Razorbacks took over the permanent lead of their 43-38 first half starting with a Trey Thompson deflection forcing the Gamecocks to foul a breaking away Barford for two free throws and a 20-19 lead.
Arkansas peaked its first-half lead to eight, 32-24 when Gafford blocked a shot one one end and Macon scored and was fouled completing a 3-point play at 7:28.
Barford, 15 , and Macon, 10, combined for 25 of Arkansas’ 43 first-half points.
Silva, South Carolina’s foul-attracting magnet, attempted eight first half free throws and hit six among his eight first-half points.
Gravett, netting the last two of his 5 for 5 first-half free throws with 11 seconds left for Macon’s second foul, scored 10 first-half points.
Macon opened the second half hitting a beat the clock 3-pointer followed by a Gafford dunk.