FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — C.J. Jones spent much of last season as a freshman waiting to show he was more than just a role player for Arkansas.
The sharp-shooting sophomore is getting plenty of opportunities this season to do a little bit of everything for the Razorbacks, and he’s making the most of those chances.
Jones continued his hot start to the season on Tuesday night, matching his career best with 19 points in a 92-66 win for Arkansas (6-2) over Colorado State.
The 6-foot-5 Jones finished 7 of 9 from the field, including 3 of 5 on 3-pointers, while scoring in double figures for a fourth straight game. After reaching double digits just twice all of last season, Jones has now done so five times in Arkansas’ first eight games — reaching his career-best of 19 points twice in the last three games.
Several of his makes on Tuesday came from not only 3-point range, but well behind the line.
“I like to shoot, really, like four feet behind the 3-point line, because it’s easier for me, actually,” Jones said. “If I’m close on the line, I feel like I’ll miss it. But if I’m back far enough, I feel like I’ll make it more than I miss.”
Jaylen Barford also had 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting for Arkansas despite not scoring until near the end of the first half, and freshman Daniel Gafford added 14 points off the bench.
Arkansas was playing its first home game in 18 days and has now won its four games in Bud Walton Arena by an average margin of 25.3 points this season.
The Rams (4-5) led 13-2 early in the game, but Arkansas coach Mike Anderson brought in Jones and Gafford off the bench and the Razorbacks went on a 24-3 run. They closed out the first half with a 45-16 stretch and led 47-29 at halftime — extending their dominance at home this season — and the Arkansas bench outscored the Rams reserves 47-17.
“C.J. came out and was lighting it up,” Anderson said. “… When that group (off the bench came in), I thought they really got the energy going and got the atmosphere charged up, and before you know it, I thought our defense made the game a 94-foot game.”
Prentiss Nixon led Colorado State with a career-high 31 points, topping his previous best of 30 against Kansas State last season. Nixon finished 8 of 13 from the field, including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers, and hit 10 of 11 free throws.
His performance wasn’t nearly enough for the Rams to overcome an Arkansas team still smarting following a blowout loss at Houston last weekend.
“I think the fact they lost to Houston, we caught this team at the wrong time,” Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy said. “And they certainly played the right team at the right time in us.”
Arkansas forward Arlando Cook played for the first time this season following his suspension for a September arrest on accusations of first-degree assault, public intoxication and disorderly conduct. The 6-foot-8 senior was scoreless in 15 minutes had had four rebounds and two assists.
Colorado State: The Rams struggled to shoot the ball (36.5 percent) on Tuesday and with turnovers (19) that led to 27 Arkansas points. More than anything, however, they simply couldn’t do enough to pressure the Razorbacks into mistakes on their home court. Arkansas committed a season-low five turnovers and didn’t have its first until nearly 25 minutes into the game.
Arkansas: Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson will have to consider starting the talented Gafford moving forward, especially ahead of a matchup with Minnesota on Saturday. Arkansas trailed 11-0 in its loss to Houston, and it was down 10-0 on Tuesday night before dominating the rest of the half. With Gafford on the court, the Razorbacks outscored the Rams by 25 points in the first half.
Colorado State travels to Oregon on Friday night.
The Razorbacks remain at home to face the No. 14 Gophers on Saturday.
Follow Kurt Voigt on Twitter at @Kurt_Voigt_AP