Three-Point Play: Barford, Arkansas cruise past Bucknell 101-73

Razorbacks have too much firepower for Patriot League favorites

By Bart Pohlman

Welcome to Three-Point Play, Sport & Story’s recap of Arkansas basketball games. Here you’ll find thoughts and notes following Razorback games this season.

It may early in the season, but Arkansas sure looks like a team that’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.

The Razorbacks showcased their potential in a 101-73 win over Patriot League preseason favorites Bucknell on Sunday at Bud Walton Arena. Jaylen Barford led the way with a career-high 27 points for Arkansas (2-0), while Daryl Macon added 21.

Here are a few takeaways:

1. This was what 40 Minutes of Hell…err…the Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball looks like.

It doesn’t matter what you call it: this group of Razorbacks is easily Mike Anderson’s most athletic team to date. The Hogs are fast and aggressive on both sides of the ball, putting opponents in tough positions and taking advantage of those situations. Arkansas overwhelmed the Bison, just as they did to Samford in the opener.

It starts with great guard play, something Arkansas finally has under Anderson. Make no mistake: Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford were good last year, but they’re even better now. Anton Beard looks like a completely different player, too. CJ Jones is vastly improved from a season ago. Add it all up and you’ve got a team that’s tough to defend and that defends hard.

2. Jaylen Barford is one of the best players in the country when it comes to attacking the rim in the open court—or really, attacking the rim, period.

Barford shined Sunday, getting to the basket time and time again—and converting when he got there. The 5-of-9 performance at the free throw line is something that needs work, but the fact that he got to the line that often (though two attempts were the result of a technical foul) is an encouraging sign.

The senior guard makes the Razorback offense go, and he’s just as capable of pulling up for a 20-footer or dishing it as he is taking it to the rack. Senior guards are what win teams games in March, and Arkansas has a great set of them

3. Arkansas is only going to get better. It’s what we’ve seen time and time from Anderson’s teams—they continue to improve as the season progresses. Even his worst team at Arkansas—the 16-16 team in 2015-16—played much better down the stretch of the season.

The Hogs will get a boost with the impending return of Dustin Thomas from suspension, giving Arkansas some depth at forward that’s been lacking early in the year. That’ll come just in time for the trip to Portland for the PK80, where the Razorbacks will face a measuring stick of sorts against some premier competition.

Other observations:

– Arkansas scored 54 points in the paint in this one. If you do the math, that means that 27 of the Hogs’ 32 two-point makes were in the paint. That’s a really solid ratio, and it’s worth watching to see if they can continue that trend.

– Daniel Gafford is going to be really good, but has to work on staying out of foul trouble. The raw potential is easy to see—his combination of size and athleticism will really help him excel on both sides of the ball, and he runs the floor incredibly well for a big man. He’s fouled out of both games so far, but part of that is acclimating to the game at the next level, which is always tough for big men.

– Macon has gotten better and has some of that swagger you love to see in a guard. That step-back 3-pointer he hit at the buzzer at the end of the first half? That’s a weapon any coach would love to have. Call it a gut feeling that Macon will hit some big shots for this team this year.

– Adrio Bailey can be an impact guy. He’s got an incredible motor and doesn’t give up on a play. When Mike Anderson called him a junkyard dog, he wasn’t kidding. The sophomore is averaging 11.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals.

– Did you see Darious Hall’s dunk? Holy moly. This is a fun team to watch.