FAYETTEVILLE -- Daniel Gafford's eight for eight from the field, 16 points, six shot blocks and seven rebounds in the El Dorado freshman's debut Arkansas start headlined the Razorbacks' 96-79 thumping of 14th-ranked Minnesota on Saturday night at Walton Arena.
Of less headline prominence but no less importance, Arkansas' bench excelled minus its energetic big man coming off it.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, reserves C.J. Jones, Adrio Bailey, Arlando Cook, Darious Hall and Trey Thompson outscored the Golden Gophers' four utilized reserves 29-13.
It was a pivotal stat negating Coach Richard Pitino's Golden Gophers' making 24 of 37 free throws to Arkansas' seven of 13.
"They keep coming at you in this building, and they've got really good depth," said Pitino, whose Gophers left two injured players in Minneapolis and got only 14 minutes from foul-troubled big man Reggie Lynch. "We're not there yet."
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson, noting Minnesota sports "an outstanding team" for starters, said Pitino lamented to him postgame about the depth disparity between Arkansas and his Golden Gophers.
"They just caught us on a night where our guys who start played well and the guys who came off the bench played really, really well," Anderson said.
Thompson, the 6-9 senior from Madison via Forrest City High supplanted in the starting lineup by 6-11 Gafford, only scored two points off the bench yet was a big cog in Arkansas' victory.
Playing the 19 minutes that Gafford didn't play because foul trouble limited Gafford to 21 minutes, Thompson grabbed six rebounds, second for Arkansas only to Gafford, blocked two shots, made two steals and dished two assists.
"The beauty of it (starting Gafford) is you have Trey coming in and giving us some great minutes off the bench," Anderson said.
Between senior starter Dustin Thomas, Bailey, Cook and Thompson, Arkansas' power forwards besides Gafford combined for 18 points, 12 rebounds and three steals as well as Thompson's two shot-blocks.
That kind of spread-it-around production enables the Hogs to thrive even with Gafford playing just half the game.
"To me that's been the recipe for our team," Anderson said. "You have got some forwards that can extend the floor or can finish off buckets or get stickbacks. This team (Minnesota) we played can get offensive rebounds and put it back in. That's one of the things they do real well. But we were right there. We actually had more second-chance points (15-12) than they did. That is because of guys like Adrio and Dustin Thomas. Cook, Bailey, all those guys coming off the bench gave us quality minutes, and it really got our crowd into the basketball game."
Football helped inspire, too.
In Minnesota's last two games, losses at Nebraska and at Arkansas, crowds fed off the on-court introductions of new Nebraska and new Arkansas head football coaches Scott Frost and Chad Morris.
Matt Zimmerman, Arkansas' director of operations, said Pitino joked, "Why do they keep firing and then introducing football coaches before they play us?"
Sports on 12/11/2017
Print Headline: Bench key to Arkansas' victory over Minnesota