Arkansas Razorbacks

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Barford’s 27 points sends Arkansas past No. 23 Florida

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Believe it or not, Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament hopes appeared all but lost a little more than a month ago.

The way the Razorbacks have played since, they’re arguably the hottest team in the Southeastern Conference and looking to do far more than just reach the NCAAs for a third time in the last four seasons.

Led by Jaylen Barford’s 27 points and 10 rebounds, Arkansas advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament with an 80-72 win over No. 23 Florida on Friday night. The win is the eighth in the last 10 games for the sixth-seeded Razorbacks (23-10), a winning stretch matched in the SEC only by No. 13 Tennessee — who Arkansas will face on Saturday.

“I think we’re slowly picking up steam and we’re getting better,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “… This team is believing in each other.”

In addition to how often Arkansas has won since falling to 15-8 after back-to-back road losses to Texas A&M and LSU, it’s who the Razorbacks have defeated that’s so impressive. The win over the third-seeded Gators (20-12) was the school’s third over a ranked opponent in the last month, improving Arkansas to 5-1 against ranked opponents this season.

It also ended an eight-game losing streak to Florida team that had won three games in a row coming into the tournament.

Barford, the third-leading scorer in the SEC, finished one off his career high in points in the win and he matched his best with the double-digit rebounds. He did so a night after hitting a key late 3-pointer in the Razorbacks opening win over South Carolina , finishing 9 of 17 from the field and showing off his usual array of physical finishes around the rim for all of the SEC to see.

Arkansas freshman Daniel Gafford added 16 points and also matched his career-best with 12 rebounds, keying an effort that saw the Razorbacks outrebound the Gators 43-28. Gafford also put the exclamation point on the victory with a windmill dunk on the break in the closing minute that sent the vocal Arkansas crowd into a frenzy in the Scottrade Center.

“I think our confidence is great right now as a team,” Barford said. “We came together, and I think everybody knows what’s at task right now. It’s game time, and everybody’s ready to play.”

Keith Stone led Florida with 22 points and finished 8 of 10 from the field. Chris Chiozza added 16 points and KeVaughn Allen 11 for the Gators, who hit six of their first 10 3-pointers before hitting only seven of their next 22 to finish 13 of 32 overall from behind the arc.


Barford’s career high of 28 points came earlier this season in a loss at Florida, giving the first-team All-SEC guard a total of 55 points in two games against the Gators this season. “(Barford) scored on whoever was guarding him,” Florida coach Mike White said. “He scored off ball screens, he scored off step-back jumpers against our bigs. Two games this year he dominated us.”


Arkansas: The last time the Razorbacks won a game against Florida was on Feb. 5, 2013, in Fayetteville. Since then, they had lost the eight straight games to add to a stretch of 13 losses in 14 games to the Gators. Arkansas has now won 40 straight games when leading at halftime, and it’s well on its way to a third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four seasons.

Florida: Allen is from Arkansas and played in at North Little Rock High School with Arkansas guard Anton beard. The senior scored a season-high 28 points in Florida’s 88-73 win over the Razorbacks on Jan. 17, but he was held to a 4-of-11 shooting effort on Friday. The loss was the first of Allen’s career against his home state, coming after he had been a part of six straight victories over the Razorbacks.


Florida waits for its NCAA Tournament destination.

Arkansas faces second-seeded Tennessee on Saturday.

Arkansas dismisses Dustin Thomas from program

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Arkansas is going to shorthanded heading into the postseason.

The Razorbacks dismissed senior forward Dustin Thomas for an unspecified violation of team rules, the program announced Monday, just days ahead of their SEC tournament opener Thursday.

“It is a privilege to represent the University of Arkansas as a student-athlete,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said in a statement. “We will continue to hold the student-athletes in our program to a high standard on and off the court.”

Thomas averaged 5 points and 4.1 rebounds in his second season with the Razorbacks after transferring to Fayetteville from Colorado.

He has a lengthy list of disciplinary actions with a suspension earlier this year that cost him three games, was benched for two games this year and was arrested in 2015 when he was “accused of passing counterfeit money at multiple Fayetteville businesses,” according to Arkansas Online.

He started 17 games this season and averaged 19.2 minutes per game.

The Razorbacks (21-10, 10-8) will open postseason play Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between South Carolina and Ole Miss.

No. 1 North Carolina blows lead, but avoids upset from No. 8 Arkansas


North Carolina, the top seed in the South Region, blew a 17-point lead but fortunately had enough time to stave off an upset bid from No. 8 Arkansas.

The Tar Heels advance to the Sweet 16 with a 72-65 win over the Razorbacks on Sunday night in Greenville, South Carolina.

Arkansas not only erased a double-digit deficit, it had the lead coming out of the last official timeout. However, it was North Carolina — not Mike Anderson’s 40 Minutes of Hell — that would clamp down defensively. Over the final 3:30 of regulation, and trailing 65-62, the Tar Heels held the Razorbacks without a single point.

Not to take credit from North Carolina’s execution down the stretch, but the defense was aided by several bad possessions by Arkansas. This game was not without controversy, as well.

With 50 seconds remaining, Joel Berry II collided with two Razorbacks as he drove to the basket. The help-side defender appeared to have drawn a charge. Or, perhaps the primary defender got Berry on the arm. And maybe, Berry traveled after making contact. There were three options for the officials to make the call instead, they swallowed their whistles. Berry threw a dart off the backboard which Kennedy Meeks tipped in to put the Tar Heels up 68-65.

North Carolina ran out to a 17-point lead in the first half due to mistakes by Arkansas and owning the offensive glass. The Tar Heels have arguably the best rebounding team in the country, while the Razorbacks allow opponents to corral 34 percent of their missed shots according to kenpom. North Carolina came down with 14 offensive rebounds in the first half. In the second half, Arkansas reversed that trend and kept the Tar Heels to one shot as it began its comeback effort.

Arkansas defense flummoxed North Carolina, holding the Tar Heels to 38 percent shooting and 29 percent from three. Berry and Justin Jackson combined to shoot 7-of-27 from the field.

Meeks led the team with 16 points, followed by Jackson’s 15. Daryl Macon had 19 points off the bench in a losing effort.

North Carolina will play No. 4 seed Butler next week in the Sweet 16 in Memphis.

Beard set to make return to action for Arkansas after arrest

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas point guard Anton Beard will make his return to the court on Saturday after missing the season’s first nine games following a summer arrest on forgery charges.

Beard, named to the Southeastern Conference’s All-Freshman team last season for the Razorbacks (5-4), was arrested in July after Fayetteville police said he was seen using and exchanging counterfeit $20 and $50 bills.

He entered a pre-trial diversion program last month in an attempt to avoid prosecution, and Saturday’s game in North Little Rock with Mercer (8-2) will mark the end of his semester-long suspension.

“He feels grateful to have the opportunity still to be here,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I am sure there are a lot of things he wants to correct. How do you correct that? By going out and doing the right thing. So, it’s a life lesson for him.”

Beard averaged 5.8 points in 18.9 minutes per game last season for the Razorbacks, who were 27-9 and finished runner-up in the SEC. He started the season’s final 16 games, including a pair in the NCAA Tournament, and he shot 35.2 percent on 3-pointers while also averaging a steal per game.

The 6-foot point guard wasn’t made available to speak publicly before his season debut, but Anderson said he’s been practicing with the Razorbacks for the last two weeks in preparation for his first game.

Arkansas has struggled at times this season to replace last season’s SEC Player of the Year, Bobby Portis, as well as second-leading scorer Michael Qualls. The Razorbacks were 2-3 following a pair of losses to Georgia Tech and Stanford in New York, but they have won three of four games since.

Without Beard, point guard Jabril Durham has flourished while averaging a team-high 30.8 minutes per game. The senior is second in the country with an average of 8.1 assists per game, and he’s also averaging nearly two steals per game.

Anderson said while Beard’s return will cut into Durham’s minutes somewhat, he expects both to become more efficient with their play – and that the two are likely to see action at the same time as Arkansas tries to extend its winning streak to three games.

“He’s not the savior,” Anderson said of Beard. “He’s just going to be a guy that’s going to come in and try to get back into the rhythm of things, because right now our guys are playing at a pretty good level.”

Arkansas lands four-star junior college forward Arlando Cook

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One week after announcing that he’d de-committed from Nevada, one of the top junior college prospects in the Class of 2016 has decided to play his college basketball in the SEC.

6-foot-9 power forward Arlando Cook, currently a sophomore at Connors State College in Oklahoma, announced via Twitter Thursday afternoon that he will sign with Arkansas when the early signing period begins later this month. Cook averaged 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as a freshman, and his commitment is an important one for a program that currently lack front court depth.

Cook joins fellow forward Adrio Bailey in Arkansas’ 2016 recruiting class to date. The Razorbacks took a hit to their front court options during the summer as it was announced that Ted Kapita was not cleared to join the program. Originally expected to attend prep school and join Arkansas in 2016, Kapita wound up signing on with the ill-fated AmeriLeague whose CEO was none other than convicted con man Glendon Alexander (he went by the name of Cerruti Brown in this endeavor).

That took Kapita out of the equation, and with Kennesaw State transfer Willy Kouassi being in his final season of eligibility Mike Anderson and his staff had some significant holes to address in their front court rotation. Current juniors Moses Kingsley and Dustin Thomas (Colorado transfer; sitting out this season) will be available in 2016-17 as will redshirt freshman Trey Thompson.

But Arkansas needed another option, especially one who can hit the ground running and be a key contributor immediately. Cook’s verbal pledge takes care of this issue.

Arkansas lands three-star Class of 2016 forward

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Arkansas picked up its third commitment in the Class of 2016 as three-star forward Adrio Bailey pledged to the Razorbacks.

A native of Louisiana, the 6-foot-7 Bailey took his official visit to Arkansas over the weekend and becomes the first high school player to commit in the current Razorback class.

Highly-touted junior college guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon currently make up head coach Mike Anderson’s recruiting class and Bailey gives them some much-needed size. A forward with developing wing skills, Bailey can play above the rim and he’s also versatile enough to make plays all over the floor. With the way Arkansas plays, it should be a good fit for Bailey’s strengths.