Red-Hot Thomas, Hogs Take On Texas State

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas forward Charles Thomas goes into tonight's game against Texas State with 11 straight field goals made -- a stat which clearly hasn't gone to his head.

"Coach (Stan Heath) said something about it in practice -- I thought it was 10," Thomas said. "I'm not thinking about it. I'm just taking shots and letting the game come to me."

Thomas has made 22 of 34 field goal tries for a gaudy .647 percentage for the Razorbacks (5-2), who figure to dispatch the inexperienced Bobcats (0-5) in Bud Walton Arena today at 7:05 p.m.

"As long as we win -- that's all I'm thinking about," Thomas said.

The Razorbacks have a nine-day break for final exams after tonight, so Heath has warned the team about finishing this segment of the season the right way.

"I've talked to our team about putting our foot to the pedal," Heath said. "You saw Sunday night, Duke had an 11-point lead over Virginia Tech with four minutes left and then had to make a 40-footer at the buzzer to win by two. With that 3-point line, anything can happen."

Texas State, coached by Dennis Nutt, has made 31.9 percent of its 3-point tries while losing to Utah, Utah Valley State, Texas-Permian Basin, Arkansas-Little Rock (73-54) and SMU (78-67).

Nutt, the youngest of Hogs football coach Houston Nutt's three coaching brothers, was a noted long-range shooter himself for TCU. But his leading scorer, freshman guard Brandon Bush, averages just 9.5 points per game.

"We were searching hard for an opponent late in scheduling," Heath said, "and Baylor had to drop its non-conference games. Dennis was most receptive to playing us. He lost his inside players and a bunch of top scorers from last season, but he has a scrappy bunch. They give great effort and play hard every possession."

What looked like a bad Bobcats loss to UALR didn't look quite so bad after UALR played Michigan State within five points (72-67) last Saturday.

Coming off a 66-63 win against Missouri, Arkansas also has plenty to work on, Heath said.

"We want to try to be aggressive, pick up a little more full-court and see what we can do with an extended defense," Heath said. "On offense, we want to give our big guys more touches. We need to start dominating the glass."

Heath again plans to start 7-foot Steven Hill and 6-10 Darian Townes together.

"Charles (Thomas) doesn't mind not starting," Heath said. "I love the way he's matured. He seems bubbly and happy. He's run into the stands twice after the ball -- in Maui (against Maryland) and here (against Missouri)."

Thomas, who hopscotched four narrow tables in Maui plus two media tables and a rail in Walton Arena, said, "I try to stop, but I can't. It was harder here, because they didn't have any rails in Maui."

Thomas is averaging 9.7 points and 4.4 rebounds -- numbers befitting a quality sixth man.

"I want to be a spark plug, even if I don't start the game," he said.

Townes (10.1 points, 6 rebounds per game) also tumbled into a media table against Missouri and emerged unscathed. Heath noted that Townes blocked six shots against Missouri.

Arkansas' fourth-year coach also cited guard Jonathon Modica's defense, saying, "Modica is our most improved defensive player. He takes a lot of pride in it."

Modica also is Arkansas' second leading scorer with 14.7 per game, behind 6-7 guard Ronnie Brewer's 20.4.

Hogs senior guard Eric Ferguson is averaging just 4.7 points, including a woeful 2-of-8 free throws, but Heath said, "At some point in time it's going to click for Eric. He's been pressing. It's mental right now -- he's thinking too much at the line. But we're not panicked about him at all."

A visitor to Walton Arena on Monday was former Arkansas player and assistant coach Pat Foster, who had not toured the arena before. Foster was in town on business and had lunch with former Hog Tommy Boyer before returning to his home in Houston, Texas.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories