FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — Nearly a dozen NBA scouts showed up to catch a glimpse Arkansas big man Daniel Gafford. He delivered. So did guard Jalen Harris — with pinpoint pass after pass.
Harris had a career-high 12 assists and Gafford overcame a sluggish start to finish with 12 points, helping the Razorbacks beat Colorado State 98-74 on Wednesday night for their sixth straight win.
“They have an NBA player down there. If he catches it in there, good luck,” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said.
Arkansas (6-1) led by as many as 22 points early in the second half when the Rams (4-5) went on a 17-2 run to make things interesting. After a timeout to regain their composure, the Razorbacks came out refocused and reeled off 13 straight points to wrap up the win.
“We just had to lock back in,” Harris explained. “We were playing like the game was over. It wasn’t.”
A potentially future NBA lottery pick, the 6-foot-11 Gafford played limited minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, but he found his rhythm after intermission. He added nine rebounds and three assists.
“They tried to make us win without Dan in the first half. We showed we could do that,” Harris said. “When he got back in, they had to play honest so when they doubled, it opened up for everybody else.”
Mason Jones took advantage by scoring 16 points, one of six Arkansas players to score in double digits.
Isaiah Joe kept up his torrid shooting by contributing 14 points. The freshman guard was coming off a 34-point outing against Florida International that earned him the Southeastern Conference basketball player of the week honors.
If that wasn’t enough, the Razorbacks’ bench came up clutch by outscoring the Rams’ reserves by a 38-7 margin.
“That’s the best our bench has played. The potential is there,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I’m glad to see those guys starting to play with more confidence.”
J.D. Paige and Kendle Moore each scored 16 points for the Rams. Nico Carvacho scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds before fouling out.
“It was very disappointing. There were periods where it wasn’t all bad,” Medved said. “But you have to sustain it and we weren’t able to sustain anything. To beat a team like that, you have to be able to play really well for long periods of time.”
The Razorbacks basketball team gained a measure of revenge for the school. In September, the football team squandered an 18-point lead in a 34-27 loss to Colorado State.
This time, they weren’t about to let a lead slip away.
Arkansas: Even when Gafford went to the bench with early foul trouble, the Razorbacks had plenty of players to pick up the slack. To think, the Razorbacks were selected 10th in the preseason SEC poll.
Then again, in each of the last five seasons the team has eclipsed the preseason polls.
Colorado State: Medved liked what he saw at times in the second half. On the verge of getting blown out, the Rams threw a scare at Arkansas.
Harris warns his teammates all the time at practice to keep their heads up.
“I know where my guys are at all times,” Harris explained. “I tell them all the time, ‘Even when I’m not looking, be expecting the ball. If I can see you out of the corner of my eye, I’m going to get you the ball.'”
Arkansas: Hosts Western Kentucky on Saturday in the first meeting between the two programs since 1974. The Razorbacks lead the series 4-2.
Colorado State: Play the second of a three-game homestand Saturday against Sam Houston State.
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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