FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – World of college basketball, meet Arkansas. Arkansas, meet the world of college basketball.
Count on seeing a lot of each other the rest of this year.
Arkansas pulled its own Nuke Laloosh on Saturday night at Bud Walton Arena. Its prescencd announced with just as much authority, if only a bit less comedy, as the Razorbacks played their best offensive game of the season in upsetting 14th-ranked Minnesota, 95-79, in front of a packed house.
The game was not quite as emphatic and athletic as some of Arkansas’ wins earlier this season. Highlight-reel dunks and fancy passes were modest in number. But that was to be expected against a team with visions of a Final Four-type season.
Instead, what Arkansas (7-2) did was execute on the offensive end. The Razorbacks were both prolific and efficient. They shot 67 percent in the first half (22 of 33) and knocked down five 3-pointers. Points were rather spread, too, with four players with eight more as they took a 50-42 lead into halftime.
Such a shooting pace was never going to sustain itself, though. Well, not quite.
Arkansas ended up shooting a ridiculous 57 percent for the game. Daniel Gafford, the freshman center, was a perfect 6 for 6. CJ Jones, the dead-eye sophomore, was 5 for 7 (all 3s), the driving senior point guard Jaylen Barford went 9 for 15 with a game-high 22 points. Together, the trio helped do to Minneosta in 2017 exactly what the Golden Gophers did Arkansas in 2016.
Minnesota (8-3) couldn’t escape it. The atmosphere seemed to help the Razorbacks build the lead in the first half, but even when it lightened in the second half, the Gophers couldn’t take advantage. Chief among the reasons was an inability to get Reggie Lynch going. Minnesota’s big man entered averaging 11.6 points and 8.6 rebounds a game. He left Fayetteville with five points and three rebounds and loads of foul trouble.
The celebratory mood was compounded with the introduction of new athletic director Hunter Yurachek and football coach Chad Morris to the masses. The two and their families went to center-court at the under-12 timeout in the first half and led the fans in a Hog Call. Morris also delivered the soon-to-be Arkansas football catchphrase “Hammer Down” to raucous cheers.
Why not? The game and the introduction were the perfect one-two combination to end the happiest week at Arkansas in a long time.
Shooting. At one point in the first half Arkansas was shooting 70 percent. That was never going to last, but it was impressive to see.
Foul trouble and not just for Daniel Gafford this time. He had four fouls yet again. But Minnesota outshot Arkansas from the free-throw line 37 attempts to 13
What’s next for Arkansas?
vs. Troy (at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock)
Saturday, December 16
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