Strong Board Work Allows Hogs To Stay Close

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas forward Charles Thomas joked that there was only one problem with the Razorbacks' much-improved rebounding effort during their heartbreaking, 68-67 loss to No. 7 Kentucky on Saturday.

Coach Stan Heath has proof the Hogs can hit the glass with the best of them.

"Practice is going to be hell now because coach knows we can do it," Thomas said.

Arkansas (14-6, 2-5 in Southeastern Conference) might've fallen agonizingly short of an upset win against the Wildcats (16-2, 7-0) in Bud Walton Arena, but kept pace with Kentucky because of its relentless work on the boards.

The Razorbacks grabbed 21 offensive rebounds, scored 20 second-chance points and limited the Wildcats to their lowest rebounding effort of the season (30). Earlier this week, Heath said Arkansas' intensity on the glass needed to improve and the Hogs responded by outrebounding Kentucky 37-30.

"Coach had been preaching this week that they're a real good rebounding team," Arkansas center Darian Townes said. "We'd have to box them out and go grab the boards. We did that tonight. That's how we stayed in the game."

Arkansas forward Ronnie Brewer and forward Olu Famutimi, who are first and second on the team in rebounding, led the way Saturday.

Famutimi grabbed a game-high 9 rebounds (2 offensive, 7 defensive), helping limit a Kentucky team that leads the SEC in offensive rebounds during conference games (13.5) to four offensive boards.

Brewer handled a good portion of the work on the other end, plucking seven of his eight rebounds from the offensive glass.

"I told Ronnie before the game he needed to get back on defense," Heath said. "He didn't listen to me and he got seven offensive rebounds.

"Not listening to me worked in his situation."

Arkansas also got a better outing from its freshmen frontcourt, which struggled in battles against LSU forward Glen Davis, Florida's David Lee and Mississippi State's combination of Marcus Campbell and Lawrence Roberts earlier this month. Thomas grabbed four rebounds, Darian Townes had five and center Steven Hill added two.

Arkansas needed the effort against the Wildcats, who were second in the SEC in rebounding margin in conference play (plus-11.6). The Hogs were 10th (minus-5.2).

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said Kentucky helped by boxing out poorly, giving an athletic Arkansas team the freedom to fly to the glass. The Hogs notched 14 second- chance points off 12 offensive rebounds in the first half.

Kentucky also missed its usual effort from senior forward Chuck Hayes, who broke his nose during the 84-62 win at Tennessee on Tuesday night. Hayes entered the game as the SEC's second-leading rebounder (9.1 a game), but wore a protective mask and was limited to 4 points and 2 rebounds in 20 minutes.

"That was a big part (of the rebounding problems) because Chuck is nine-plus rebounds every game," Smith said. "You can count on it. When he's not himself, we've got a tough time on the boards without question."

Before Saturday, the Wildcats held a 200-160 rebounding edge in its past five games against Arkansas.

Kentucky left Fayetteville with its fifth straight win against the Hogs, but lost the battle on the boards for the first time in Heath's three seasons.

"We've been working hard at that area," Heath said. "I'm not sure I've got one guy that that's his identity, to get every single rebound. So we have to do it more as a team. We have to do it more as a group.

"I thought a lot of guys stepped up in that area."

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