Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas jumped the University of California-Davis Aggies with a game opening 11-0 run.
Then the Razorbacks couldn’t prevent the now 0-3 Aggies from hanging around in striking distance until the final five minutes of Arkansas’ 81-58 home opening victory Monday night before 6,373 at Walton Arena.
The victory evens Arkansas at 1-1 following losing a 73-71 overtime heartbreaker last Friday to the Texas Longhorns in the ESPN Armed Forces game at the Fort Bliss Army base in El Paso, Texas.
Up only 37-30 at half and up only 63-54 after UCD’s Siler Schneider nailed a trey with 5:17 left, Adrio Bailey’s consecutive free throws, started a game game-breaking run including Isaiah Joe’s 3-pointer then two more Bailey free throws and a Bailey bucket to be running away at 72-54.
Junior 2-year letterman forward Bailey scored a career high 20 points while remedying Arkansas’ struggling free throw shooting by hitting 9 of 11. He even made his first career 3-pointer.
“ I hit some in high school you know,” Bailey said. “But that’s high school.”
Bailey’s role changed considerably from his Campti, La. High School days as an inside role player with Arkansas and has changed again now that he’s the elder statesman as a junior following Arkansas graduating six seniors from last season.
“Adrio was like a veteran player out there,” Anderson said.
Sophomore transfer Mason Jones tallied a game-leading 21 points, including 15 in the first half, and grabbed a team leading eight rebounds.
Joe, the freshman guard from Fort Smith Northside, scored 14. Sophomore center Daniel Gafford of El Dorado scored 12 while blocking four shots.
Gafford again committee six turnovers attracting double-teams that come with being Preseason All-SEC, but his presence freed Bailey and Jones for their big nights, Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said.
UCD’s little big man, 5-9 guard TJ Shorts last season’s Big West Player of the Year for the 2017-2018 Big West champion Aggies, led the Aggies with 14 points and eight rebounds.
“UC-Davis is a team that has some veteran players and that player of the year, that little guard Short is really good,” Anderson said. “And they just scrapped and clawed. Even when we got up 14 they didn’t panic. They are much better than their record indicates.”
But Arkansas’ defense compelled UCD to shoot but 18 of 56 from the field.
“They only scored 58 points,” Anderson said. “Texas only shot 19 percent in the second half. That’s good defense.”
But Arkansas inability to hit free throws, 13 of 24, cost the Hogs in El Paso.
And the Hogs’ inability to hit free throws, 5 of 13 including all three one and ones, allowed the Aggies only to trail 37-30 at half.
Arkansas improved vastly on the second half free throw line, 21 of 27.
“It’s amazing how you can go from one half to the next half,” Anderson said of improving free throws. “Almost 80 percent the second half 21 out of 27 at the free throw line. You make those free throws you are scoring something like 90 points and you take care of the ball there you probably have eight more points. So like I say, we can score but we have to got quit shooting ourselves in the foot. But I thought our defensive effort was good.”
UCD called timeout at 16:12 down 10-0. Jones treys started and finished the 10-0 run with buckets by Adrio Bailey in between accounting for the points.
Gabe Osabuohien’s 1 of 2 free throws at 14:32 amounted for the 11th point.
AJ John’s 3-pointer snapped the 11-0 run.
Despite forcing 13 UCD turnovers and getting 15 first-half points from Jones, the Hogs couldn’t push their lead past 14 and twice only led by five before Garrison Goode’s UCD basket with 52 seconds left concluded the first half scoring with Arkansas up, 37-30.
Only Gafford, 3 for 5 on first half freebies, made consecutive Arkansas first-half free throws.
The Aggies survived being outscored 14-4 off first-half turnovers by outrebounding Arkansas, 16-14 and getting 10 first-half points and six first-half rebounds by Short. Only 5-9, Short played fearlessly shooting inside even as Gafford, three, and Osabuohien and Chaney blocked five first-half UCD shots.
Free throws, Joe’s two freebies after a technical foul was charged to UCD Coach Jim Les, accounted for Arkansas’ first points of the second half.
While the Hogs improved from their first half free throw brickyard, Anderson said his bench, though outscored, 17-12 by the Aggies reserves, helped wear UCD down for Arkansas’ second half stretch run.
Bailey concurred the Aggies finally were run ragged.
“We sensed they were wearing out kind of like midway through the second half,” Bailey said. “They were kind of harping on each other. When they tired as the second half is ending, that’s when we gassed up.”
Arkansas next plays at 2:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN hosting the Indiana Hoosiers at Walton.
Editor’s Note: SWARK Today is proud to present post-game coverage of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks sports through the highly respected and established Nate Allen Sports Service of Fayetteville. SWARK Today is your local source for Razorback sports including football, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball.