It didn’t take long for Daniel Gafford to get raked over the coals on social media following Arkansas’ 77-65 loss to South Carolina, a game where the Hogs blew another double digits lead and, this time, could not recover. Gafford was probably oblivious to his Facebook and Twitter critics but Mike Anderson got his attention after the sophmore forward’s second foul, just five minutes into the game. The two had words as Gafford retired to the bench for the rest of the half.
Afterward Anderson was asked by a reporter about the job South Carolina forward Chris Silva did on Gafford holding him to just eight points after he had scored a combined 51 points in the Hogs’ previous two games.
“I think the fouls and Daniel did a lot of it to himself,” Anderson responded. “I mean he’s (Silva) a good player but I thought a lot of Dan’s (problems) was Dan’s doing.”
Gafford was largely missing from the offense when South Carolina roared back from a 50-37 second half deficit to take the lead with 9:13 left. Silva (6-9, 235) and Felipe Haase (6-9, 253) took turns leaning on Gafford, effectively moving him out of position down the stretch. But Anderson made it clear that Gafford wasn’t the only issue. In the first half, playing largely without Gafford the Razorbacks stayed in front with steals, layups and outside shooting. In the second half all three of those game elements went south for Arkansas.
“We gambled a couple of times and they made us pay for it,” Anderson said, referring to the Gamecocks’ turnaround. “I thought that just shifted the momentum with about eleven, twelve, thirteen minutes. Something like that. We were right there. We had the game going in the direction we wanted to and I thought we started gambling.”
And with the gambling came missed shots and a defense that was no longer coming up with steals.
“In the second half we weren’t as quick to those balls,” Anderson stressed. “They were getting those balls and a lot of times when you make shots it gives you a lot more energy. This time of year it’s all about the energy. Who brings the energy and they had enough in the tank to finish it out in that last three minutes.”
Calls by fans for Gafford to be more physical isn’t going to change the fact that he is not an inside banger. Teams like South Carolina that play a physical interior defense and have two or three players to pressure Gafford constantly are generally going to wear him down, especially if the refs swallow their whistles.
Gafford needs help and my guess is that was part of his frustration when he talked back to his head coach early in the game. Some have pointed out that Gafford would likely be having a banner season had Mississippi State freshman forward Reggie Perry stayed with his comittment to Arkansas. Another physical inside presence is needed badly by Gafford and this team.
Reggie Chaney has been that guy at times this season but against South Carolina he was ineffective when he was on the floor and mostly he stayed on the bench.
Gafford will have better nights this season. As he heads to the NBA hopefully he will add size and strength while developing a jump shot. He really doesn’t deserve some of the cheap shots certain fans have hurled at him this season. He’s not lazy. He just came along at a time when the team he played for required him to be the Lone Ranger far too often.