Winthrop Tough Opener, Heath Says

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Stan Heath made sure his team isn't looking past Paradise Jam opening opponent Winthrop by showing the Razorbacks tape of the Eagles' 80-60 thumping of a senior-laden Georgia team at home last year.

Winthrop is coached by Gregg Marshall, who has taken the Eagles to four Big South titles in the last six years, earning automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament each time.

Winthrop hasn't made the Big Dance since 2002 and was 16-12 last year, losing its top three players in terms of minutes played from last season.

Still, Heath expects the Eagles to give Arkansas its first true test of the season.

"I see this as a team that will do some things that will make us a little uncomfortable," Heath said. "We'll get a lot of pressure. They've been a team that will press you, a 2-2-1, slow you down. That's what they've done in the past. I don't know what they will do this year.

"But they've always been a hard-nosed, aggressive team that rebounds the ball very well. We'll have to do a good job, especially early in the game, of being the team that sets the tone and plays the tempo we want to play at."

Heath doesn't want his team sucked into a low-scoring halfcourt battle.

He wants the score in the 70s, not the 50s or 60s and said the key will be finding an inside-outside balance by attacking zone defenses and avoiding reliance on the easy alternatives of jump shots and 3-pointers.

Heath has a bit of a feel for his team after two exhibition wins against Division II opponents Texas A&M Commerce and Abilene Christian by a combined 59 points. But he wants to learn more.

"It didn't give us a total feel," he said. "It didn't give us an idea of what we can do against Division I teams, and when we get into SEC play. We're eager to get on the court and take what we've been doing in practice and in the exhibition games and do it when it counts."

Winthrop's top returning player is guard James Shuler, who stands 6-foot-6 and dished out a team-high 3.8 assists last season.

The Eagles have seven players listed at 6-6 or taller, but a small lineup of Shuler, 5-10 Chris Gaynor, 6-3 guard Mike Jenkins, 6-5 power forward Otis Daniels and 6-8 center Billy Houston started their last exhibition game.

Shuler scored 17 points in the Eagles' 81-42 win against North Carolina-Pembroke. The Eagles shot 55 percent but committed 20 turnovers.

"If we make 20 against UNC-Pembroke, then we'll make 30 against Arkansas," Marshall said. "We have to cut that number down."

Arkansas has forced 41 turnovers in its two exhibition wins while committing 32.

The Razorbacks scored 35 points off 25 turnovers against Abilene Christian but committed 19 giveaways, leading to 15 points.

Up Hill
Freshman center Darian Townes has started the first two exhibition games, but fellow frosh Steven Hill, a 7-footer, may start against Winthrop after a 9-point, 4-rebound effort against Abilene Christian.

"We're leaning more toward starting Hill and bringing Townes in just so he can get more comfortable," Heath said. "We'll see what happens the next couple days in practice."

Like Hill, Townes got in early foul trouble in both exhibitions, and has rushed shots, perhaps because of early jitters and trying to live up to his hype.

He went 2 of 9 against TAMC but didn't get a shot up and had three fouls and two rebounds in just 15 minutes against Abilene Christian.

"I got the kinks out the first two games," Townes said. "That was a little wake-up call for me. It's different than high school as well as prep school.

"I just got to take my time. I was kind of rushing. I was trying to do too much for the crowd. I was trying to do too much for the fans and the coaches. I was trying to play out of my game."

Townes said the butterflies are gone.

"I haven't played in front of a big crowd since like 10th grade," Townes said. "Playing in a little gym is totally different. It just hit me when I played my first two games."

Sophomore Ronnie Brewer, junior Jonathon Modica, sophomore Olu Famutimi and junior Rashard Sullivan will round out the rest of the starting lineup.

Brewer Toes The Line
Brewer was 0 of 6 from the free throw line against Abilene Christian, but said he has worked out the problem this week in practice.

Brewer said he was holding the ball too long, interrupting his shooting motion and causing him to miss short.

"Instead of bending my knees and shooting on the way up, I was more pausing and shooting with my arm," he said. "That's why I was missing short. I wasn't using my legs. I've been working on that."

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