Razorbacks Center Makes Solid Debut

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas freshman Darian Townes took a deep breath, leaned forward and tugged on the black sleeve protecting his right knee.

Then he smiled.

He wasn't fooling anyone.

"No, it didn't hurt one bit," Townes said. "Actually, my knee is pretty good, pretty healthy."

That right knee, sprained earlier in the week, did look pretty good during Arkansas' 69-46 win against Ole Miss in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams in Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night.

Townes dove, ran, rebounded, pushed and shoved and nothing seem to bother him.

"I thought he looked pretty mobile," said Arkansas coach Stan Heath. "He did a lot of good things out there. Inside, he's a load to handle and he can score inside better than most people think."

Scoring wasn't the only thing the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Townes was interested in doing Wednesday night. In 22 minutes, he did score 12 points but his 2 blocked shots and 2 assists were just as important.

"We kind of sit around and talk about statistics and kid each other about them," said freshman power forward Charles Thomas. "We don't mean anything by it, but we kid each other about who has the best ones.

"One thing, you can't see what a lot of things Townes does in the boxscore." Things like pushing 6-foot-9, 245-pound Jeremy Parnell around most of the night under the basketball.

Things like racing down court in successful transition from offense to defense on every single play.

Things like scoring off a cutter with an assist from Razorbacks guard Ronnie Brewer with 12 minutes, 5 seconds left in the game to put Arkansas in front 42-31.

Things like playing hurt with a bum knee.

"I just tried to be active," Townes said. "Coach told us to be more aggressive out there tonight because Ole Miss plays aggressively." Townes also took advantage of Ole Miss being without the services 6-7, 245-pound Tommy Eddie. Eddie was not with the team because of "personal issues."

Without Eddie -- he was the second-leading scorer (12.2) and leading rebounder (4.6) -- the Rebels were without a major inside threat.

"Not having Eddie caused us to lose a lot of ability inside," said Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes. "I thought Arkansas did a lot of good things inside." Townes did most of it, leading all Arkansas interior players with 4 rebounds, 2 each on offense and defense.

Hogs starting center Steven Hill appreciated the effort.

"Darian played a complete game," Hill said. "He did a lot of things out there tonight.

"He was all over the place." Whether he was posting up down low, screening for a teammate or crashing the boards, Townes could be noticed.

Statistically, it wasn't his biggest night of his young career but it came at the right time.

"Actually, the SEC is a lot different than nonconference," Towns said. "The coaches do a lot better job of scouting and know what to expect from you. I think they even knew something about me, too."

If not, they should now.

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