Gafford, Hall lead Arkansas past Ole Miss, 75-64
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson smiled, nodded his head affirmatively and used one his favorite words, “energy”, to describe his Razorbacks.
“We’ve got some young energy,” said Anderson, after the Razorbacks beat Mississippi 75-54 on Tuesday night.
“We’re seeing the young players contribute, not just offensively, but with energy and it showed tonight.”
Freshmen Daniel Gafford and Darious Hall highlighted a balanced Arkansas (18-8, 7-6 Southeastern Conference) attack. Gafford scored 19 points while Hall had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Anton Beard and Jaylen Barford added 13 points apiece.
“When your young players understand their roles, you become an efficient basketball team. It comes together and that builds energy,” Anderson said. “People can say it was an ugly game, but any time you win on the road, it’s not ugly.”
Ole Miss (11-15, 4-9) was led by Deandre Burnett and Markel Crawford, who scored 24 and 17 points, respectively. The Rebels pulled within 53-52 with eight minutes left, but Hall hit a pair of 3-pointer to highlight an 11-0 Arkansas surge that sealed it.
Arkansas finished 26 of 62 (42 percent) from the field, although Gafford and Hall combined to hit 11 of 15 shots. The Razorbacks were 7 of 23 (30 percent) from 3-point range and made 16-of-27 (59 percent) free throws.
Ole Miss set season lows for field goals made (18) and field-goal percentage (29.0). The Rebels were 20 of 31 (64 percent) from the free throw line, including 9 of 12 by Burnett.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have won four in a row against Ole Miss. Arkansas moved above .500 in the SEC, has won three straight and six of the last eight games. A crucial two-game home stand with No. 21 Texas A&M and Kentucky begins Saturday. The Razorbacks are 13-1 at home this season.
Ole Miss: Head coach Andy Kennedy announced his resignation Monday, effective at the end of the season, hoping the Rebels would feel less pressure offensively. That did not happen early. The Rebels shot 5 of 29 (17 percent) from the field in the first half despite opening with three consecutive field goals. Ole Miss has lost six straight games and eight of the last nine.
“I certainly did not want it to go like this,” said a clearly frustrated Kennedy. “We just weren’t very good. I’m responsible. It was like watching a bad “B″ sports movie. It’s embarrassing. I apologize.”
Kennedy has made no secret of his respect for current SEC head coaches and former co-staff members Michael White of Florida and Frank Martin at South Carolina. However, Kennedy and Anderson consider themselves more similar in styles and approaches.
“I want to say this. I like Mike Anderson. I really like Mike Anderson and what he is doing at Arkansas,” Kennedy said. “I respect him and I respect their program.”
Anderson acknowledged a similar sentiment of his own.
“Andy Kennedy is my friend and we love his family. Andy Kennedy is a great coach. I knew there would be a lot of emotions surrounding this game.”
Arkansas: The Razorbacks host No. 21 Texas A&M on Saturday.
Ole Miss: The Rebels visit Mississippi State on Saturday.