Jones, Monk Out Indefinitely

FAYETTEVILLE -- South Carolina coach Dave Odom referred to Arkansas' deep bench as "a cast of thousands" Monday morning.

Better make that 998.

Senior guard/forward Mike Jones and freshman forward Marcus Monk are out indefinitely said Arkansas coach Stan Heath at his Monday afternoon press conference.

Jones has a severely strained left groin and Monk needs to rest a lingering right shoulder injury from the LSU football game Nov. 26.

Sophomore captain and leading scorer Ronnie Brewer, who twisted his left ankle with 10:42 to play against Kentucky and missed nearly three minutes of play, had little swelling on Sunday and is not expected to have lingering negative affects from it on Wednesday when Arkansas (14-6, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) travels to South Carolina (11-7, 3-4).

Jones will miss at least a week after straining his groin and aggravating a hernia while going up for a lay-in less than a minute into Arkansas' 68-67 loss to Kentucky Saturday.

Monk injured his right AC joint (where the collarbone meets the shoulder) against LSU and has reinjured the shoulder a few times in practice and in games since joining the basketball team.

"It's never quite healed, never quite recovered," Heath said of Monk's injury. "It's gotten stung a few times in practice. He wants to spend a little time trying to get it back. He doesn't feel he can play at the level he can compete at."

Jones was limping gingerly as he entered Bud Walton Arena and rode the exercise bike as his team went through practice.

He said he's not letting the latest setback in his up-and-down career get him down.

"I feel good spirit-wise," said Jones, who averaged 11.3 points in the three games before Kentucky. "I know I'll do everything I can to get back in the flow of things. I'm not by any means going to let this knock me down. It's just another hurdle for me to get over."

Jones said he injured his groin in practice last season and while in high school, but never as severely as he did against Kentucky.

Arkansas head trainer Dave England said Jones' hernia is incidental to the groin injury and treating the groin should help the hernia as well.

He said he'd like to be back for Georgia on Feb. 9 and definitely by Feb. 12 against LSU.

Jones hit the disputed shot at LSU ruled a game-tying 2-pointer by one official and a game-winning 3-pointer by another in Arkansas' eventual 66-63 overtime loss.

"There's enough time in the season," Jones said. "I'm not going knock the chance of me coming back. My team is coming down the stretch, we can win some ball games and I want to be a part of that."

Heath said freshman forward Charles Thomas will likely take Jones' spot in the starting lineup against South Carolina.

Thomas, who averaged 9.3 points in 14 nonconference games, has seen his scoring average dwindle to 3.7 in Southeastern Conference games.

He provided a valuable effort in 27 minutes Saturday against Kentucky despite his 0 of 5 shooting day.

He grabbed 4 offensive rebounds and drew two charges, one against senior forward Chuck Hayes for his second foul to send Kentucky's leading rebounder to the bench for the final 15 minutes of the first half.

He also induced a traveling charge by moving his feet and forcing Hayes to fall down in the second half.

"Coach says you can never have a bad night on defense," Thomas said. "I'm not tall enough to block shots, so you know I have to find another way to contribute."

Thomas, who missed the Hartford game to attend the birth of his daughter, has off-court issues to deal with as well as facing the best power forwards in the SEC basis.

"There's obviously some things Charles is dealing with outside of basketball," Heath said. "It's not the easiest thing in the world.

"A nice spark from Charles would help our ballclub."

Heath declared in the preseason that making the NCAA Tournament field was the goal for his third team, but he's not publicly talking about what his team has to do to make it.

"It's a goal we'd like to reach, but we have to take care of business," he said. "It's easy for fans or the media to look down the road. I sometimes know the next game after, but that's it. You can't look too far ahead.

"The short term is South Carolina and winning on the road. That's the priority."

Arkansas has to win six of nine games to even its SEC record at 8-8, usually good enough to reach the Big Dance but perhaps not this season with the conference's poor nonconference record against top teams and its low RPI.

Heath referred to the current sporting climate of instant gratification as the "Wendy's, Burger King" world, but one he accepts.

"It's quick fix," Heath said. "The expectations of getting there are in everyone's heart and mine included. That's OK. We want to strive for that as well.

"But I do think we've made tremendous progress to play the No. 6 team to one possession is a long way from where we've been in a long time."

Heath was pleased Arkansas outrebounded Kentucky 37-30 to validate what he's been saying for weeks since SEC play began.

Arkansas can rebound.

Doing it was another matter.

He saw signs of improved boxing out through the first few games and said players like Olu Famutimi (9 boards against Kentucky) and Brewer (8 vs. UK) were the benefactors.

"I think what I'm seeing right now -- where earlier I was real upset we weren't making contact -- we are definitely boxing out now," Heath said. "Guys like Olu and Ronnie are cleaning up because of it because the other guys are more involved taking care of their own guys.

"For us to rebound against Kentucky proves we can rebound. Again, it's another area we have to carry over for the rest of the season."

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