Daniel Gafford

Forward Daniel Gafford stands at the free throw line Jan. 12 in the Razorbacks’ 94-88 overtime loss to the LSU Tigers.

 

Since missing seven free throws against Western Kentucky last month and losing by only one point, the Razorback basketball squad has established free throw shooting as its biggest weakness.

Shooting under 64 percent on the season, Arkansas ranks 324th in free throw percentage among the 351 Division I NCAA basketball teams. They rank dead last in both the SEC and the Power Five conferences as a whole.

For a team whose record was as high as second place in the SEC, according to ESPN rankings, and good enough to beat now ranked No. 25 Indiana, free throws have been incredibly costly as the number of Hog losses increases.

In losses to the University of Texas and Western Kentucky University by a combined three points, the Hogs shot 55 percent from the line, missing 18 total free throws. If they had  a free throw percentage on pace with other SEC teams, the Hogs would have been in a much better position to win and secure a 12-1 start on pace with Duke and Tennessee.

Leading the Hogs in both scoring and minutes played this season, sophomore forward Daniel Gafford has been the biggest concern at the free-throw line, connecting on only 57.7 percent from the charity stripe. Gafford has attempted a team-high 104 free throws this season and has 44 misses.

Gafford’s role as the Razorbacks’ star player at center, a position that most frequently shoots from the paint, there is more pressure on him than others to help raise the Razorbacks’ dismal conversion rate. So far, it is still an improvement over his freshman season, when he converted less than 53 percent of his 161 foul shots.

Individual performance has varied widely throughout the team. Sophomore guard Mason Jones has managed over 81 percent, while freshman forward Reggie Chaney has barely cleared 31 percent.

The Razorbacks will next tip off at home against Missouri Wednesday at 8 p.m.

 

Elias Weiss is the assistant editor of the sports and opinion sections of the Arkansas Traveler, where he worked as a reporter and columnist from 2018-2019. Elias graduated with an AA degree in journalism from Central Piedmont Community College in 2018.

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