Townes Pines For Twin Towers Tonight

FAYETTEVILLE -- Darian Townes, Arkansas' confident 6-foot-10 sophomore forward, practically salivates when he talks about playing basketball in the same lineup with 7-foot Hogs center Steven Hill.

"Two great post players, great defenders, shot blockers," Townes said. "It's going to be real exciting when we get healthy."

Whether that's against run-and-gun LSU-Shreveport in tonight's exhibition game at Bud Walton Arena is the question.

Townes' sprained big toe on his right foot has improved enough to let him practice at about 70 pecent effectiveness this week, but he said, "It's still real swollen."

Hill suffered a sprained ankle on Monday and was spending a lot of time on the treadmill during late-week practices. Coach Stan Heath termed him "doubtful" for tonight's 6:35 tipoff.

Even though Arkansas doesn't open officially until Friday against Portland State, Townes reminded, "It's important to get a feel for the game in these exhibitions."

Tonight, the Razorbacks may get a feel for what it's like to chase speedy guards and defend 3-pointers for 40 minutes.

LSU-Shreveport, 27-9 last season, is coming off a Sweet 16 run in the NAIA Tournament.

Even if that score included pregame layups, it got Heath's attention.

"It will be a challenge for (UA) guys like Charles Thomas and Vincent Hunter to stay with some of LSU-Shreveport's quicker players," Heath said.

Ronnie Brewer, Arkansas' superstar-in-waiting, will play some at point guard tonight, partly to try to keep the Pilots grounded.

"It's a coaches' decision," said the unflappable Brewer. "It doesn't bother me."

Brewer has become a more consistent shooter and defender this season, thanks to an enhanced work ethic which has bred confidence.

"If you don't have confidence, you don't have anything," Brewer said.

LSU-Shreveport guards Fredericko Payne and Josh Porter are averaging 31.5 and 20 points per game respectively this season, but Brewer believes he can help contain them.

Heath stated Thursday, "Ronnie, when he really wants to, can stay in front of anybody."

The Pilots, members of the Gulf Coast Athletics Conference, have several formidable players.

"Payne is an NAIA preseason All-American, (guard) Kyle Blankenship played for Tulsa, Porter played for Stephen F. Austin and (center) Jeremy Johnston played for Louisiana Tech," Heath said. "They shoot a lot of 3s, have a lot of speed. That's fine -- we play up and down, too."

Hogs freshman point guard Sean McCurdy should particularly enjoy the pace. If anything, he's gone too fast at times.

Cyrus McGowan, Arkansas' other freshman, suffered an initially scary knee injury when Hunter fell on him in practice this week, but Heath said tests have shown there's no structural damage to the knee and McGowan might even play some tonight.

Hogs senior guard Eric Ferguson will play with a mask to protect his broken nose.

Heath said he'd likely start a three-guard lineup of Brewer, Jonathon Modica and Dontell Jefferson with Townes and Thomas.

"At times, our team is looking very good in practice," Heath said. "We're becoming a better rebounding team. Our guys are attentive, easy to coach, fun to coach. But in late-game situations we're still not as good as we need to be."

Heath called a 30-second timeout with 21 seconds left in the first half against Southwest Baptist, with Arkansas leading 44-21, to address just such a situation. But after Brewer gave up the ball, the Hogs failed to score as Modica was surrounded by three Bearcats along the baseline at the buzzer.

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