FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ Daniel Gafford scored on a pair of monster dunks late in the game and Arkansas defeated Missoui 65-63 Saturday night, snapping a three-game losing streak, but it didn’t come easy.
The Razorbacks (12-5, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) squandered an 18-point first-half lead, but rallied late to pull out the win in front of a sellout crowd of 18,297 in Bud Walton Arena.
Gafford, a freshman, was the difference late in the game with Arkansas trailing 59-55 with just under four minutes to go. Gafford slashed inside and scored on a layup and drew a foul. His free throw pulled Arkansas within 59-58.
Twice guard Daryl Macon found Gafford inside for dunks, the last with under a minute left that gave Arkansas a 65-63 lead.
Twice Missouri had chances late to retake the lead, but the Tigers (12-5, 2-2) could not get a shot to fall. Missouri forced an Arkansas shot-clock violation with 11.7 seconds left, but Jordan Geist was forced to put up an off-balance 3-point attempt from the right corner that missed, and Arkansas rebounded as the clock expired.
Arkansas played lock-down defense for most of the first half, holding Missouri to under 30 percent shooting until near the five-minute mark. Twice Arkansas led by 18 points, the last time at 30-12 when Gafford hit a pair of free throws with 5:49 left in the first half.
A 3-pointer by Jontay Porter jump-started the Tigers and Missouri closed the half on a 16-5 run to trail 35-28 at the break.
Jaylen Barford scored the first eight Arkansas points of the second half to boost the Razorbacks’ lead to 43-31, but Missouri stormed back behind Kassius Robertson, who scored 13 second-half points and finished with a game-high 26. His 3-pointer with 7:15 left pulled Missouri within 53-52, then he added another 3-pointer and a mid-range jumper for a 59-53 lead before Gafford turned the tide for Arkansas.
Gafford led a balanced Arkansas scoring attack with 15 points. Barford added 13, Anton Beard 11 and Darious Hall 10.
Jordan Barnett scored 12 for Missouri.
Missouri: The Tigers fell into a deep hole to start the game, and although they rallied to take the lead in the fourth quarter, in the final five-plus minutes the Tigers were clearly fatigued.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks had struggled defensively before Saturday’s win, giving up more than 75 points in four straight games. Arkansas held Missouri to 42 percent shooting from the floor.
Missouri will host Tennessee on Wednesday before playing three of its next four SEC games on the road starting with a game at Texas A&M next Saturday.
Arkansas hits the road Wednesday at Florida. The Razorbacks are 2-4 on the road this season with SEC losses to Auburn and Mississippi State.