Work In Progress

FAYETTEVILLE -- It won't be long before Arkansas center Darian Townes has his hands full guarding big bodies like LSU forward Brandon Bass and Mississippi State center Lawrence Roberts.

That's why the 6-foot-10, 250-pound freshman had no problem tangling with Lipscomb center Shaun Durant for 23 minutes on Monday night.

"It's another matchup with another wide body," Townes said about the 6-foot-8, 250-pound Durant. "It's a test for (Southeastern Conference) play when we get Lawrence Roberts with a nice wide body, Brandon Bass from LSU. This was getting me ready and prepared for those guys. This is a good challenge for me now."

Townes impressed the home crowd with his offensive arsenal during Arkansas' 83-54 win in Bud Walton Arena, scoring in double digits for the third straight game (15 points). But the freshman also responded to the defensive challenge, working relentlessly to make strides against a beefy body.

Durant, who entered the game averaging 11.4 points and 5.9 rebounds a game, finished with 6 points and 13 rebounds. He had a few moments against the Hogs, but Townes blocked a game-high 3 shots, grabbed 4 rebounds and led a defense that limited Lipscomb to 24 points in the paint.

"A lot of times post guys stay behind their man and once they get the ball then they try to guard them," Arkansas assistant Ronny Thompson said. "In college basketball, you can't let anyone catch the ball eight feet from the basket. He has been doing a good job with little technique things, keeping his man off balance before he catches the ball. Things a normal fan wouldn't recognize.

"But he did a lot of little things to keep his man uncomfortable in the post."

Townes struggled in that area early this season, but the progression has led to big expectations as the Razorbacks inch closer to the SEC opener against Ole Miss on Jan. 5. Thompson said the Hogs have been monitoring his defensive progression and the positive results have been a product of Townes' dedication.

"We told him, 'Let's hone in defensively and make sure our technique is right,'" Thompson said. "Let's make sure that we're boxing out, that we're denying our guy, doing our work early. The offense will come. He has bought into that.

"He's putting more mental effort on the defensive end and running the floor and it lends himself to being successful on offense."

Said coach Stan Heath: "There are some schemes that take a little bit of time to learn and get used to. He's picking things up very quickly. There's going to come a time where it's going to be a natural instinct. That's when you know he's got it."

The physical Durant did get the better of Townes on a handful of occasions, backing his way into the post to get up a few close-range shots. He also grabbed five offensive rebounds that led to Lipscomb's 16 second-chance points.

So Townes understands he doesn't "have it" just yet despite the successful string of games against lightly regarded nonconference teams. But he said there's nothing wrong with being a work in progress.

"I kind of got a little fatigued," Townes said. "The big guy got a few shots on me. But when I got my wind back I fronted the post real good.

"I've still got a lot more work to do, but that's going to come. We've still got a long season ahead of us. We've got another game (against Hartford on Wednesday night) so I'm going to go and try to do it again."

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