Townes Hampered But Should Be Fine

FAYETTEVILLE -- Except for a sprained thumb in high school, Arkansas sophomore forward Darian Townes had never been hurt until his left knee began bothering him in the Connecticut game at the Maui Invitational last month.

Townes didn't think too much about it until he "came down on somebody's foot and also bumped knees with somebody" against Texas State last Tuesday.

Limited to just 12 minutes in that game, Townes underwent an MRI exam the next day.

"Darian's knee has no structural damage, but it's affecting him some," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said on Monday. "We had a very intense practice Sunday -- about two hours and 15 minutes -- and he grimaced toward the end, so I took him out."

Heath anticipates that Townes should be available to start against Missouri State on Thursday night in Bud Walton Arena, but he cautioned, "If he's having trouble matching their perimeter players flying down the court, we may have to adjust."

The upstart Bears, 6-0, are ranked sixth in the latest Sagarin Index, and Heath said, "I believe they're an NCAA Tournament team."

Townes, a confident sort, said, "We think we can get a lot of rebounds off Missouri State."

That's if Bears guard Blake Ahearn and his 3-point shooting buddies have a cooler night from behind the arc than Arkansas' last two opponents.

Ahearn averages 21.2 points per game and has made 52.1 percent of his 3-point tries.

"Ahearn is as good a shooter as I've seen," Heath said. "Missouri State is good in transition and they spread you out. Our defense will be challenged."

Heath noted that Arkansas' last two opponents -- Missouri and Texas State --came in shooting only around 30 percent on threes, yet both torched the Hogs (6-2) from long range in close losses.

"Part of me thinks it was good fortune," Heath said. "Both of those teams were loosey-goosey and they got hot."

Big 12 Views
Missouri (3-3) followed its 66-63 loss to Arkansas with another road loss at Davidson, before squeaking past Texas A&M-Commerce by one point at home on Saturday.

Quin Snyder, the embattled Tigers coach, said Monday on a Big 12 teleconference call that his team needs to play the way it did against Arkansas.

"In that game we played really physical, pressure defense, and we were discriminating on offense with five guys touching the ball and working together," Snyder said.

Mizzou is down in home attendance this season, partly, Snyder said, because of a loss to Sam Houston State in the Tigers' home opener and partly because all the Missouri games are televised.

Both Snyder and Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton were asked about the success that so-called lesser conferences have had against some power-conference teams this season.

"Some of those leagues have a chip on their shoulder, and they play that way," Snyder said. "A Sam Houston State kid had a career game against us. Also, those leagues don't lose guys to the pros early, and they tend to have junior- and senior-laden teams."

Sutton added, "Sometimes they can really point for a team from one of the bigger conferences."

Through Saturday's games, the Big 10 had the best conference RPI, followed by the Big East, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference, the Missouri Valley and the Big 12. The Colonial Conference was seventh, followed by the Atlantic 10, the Western Athletic Conference and the Pacific 10.

Besides Missouri State's success, other Missouri Valley teams Indiana State and Northern Iowa boast wins over Indiana and Iowa, respectively, this season.

Sutton On Morrison
Although Oklahoma State limited Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison to 4 of 12 floor shots until Morrison made his last two to help the Zags nip OSU by two points at home on Saturday, Sutton was impressed.

"I'm not sure there's any better perimeter player in the country," Sutton said. "Morrison moves better without the ball than anyone I've seen in a long while. He's constant motion. Some good offensive players, away from the ball, should be charged admission."

Counting 11 of 15 free throws, Morrison totaled 25 points against OSU.

"With two minutes left, Gonzaga had shot 31 free throws to our four," Sutton noted. "At the end, it was 31 to 7."

All in all, Sutton said the young Cowboys team showed some good signs.

"We're still having growing pains, but I knew we would be up and down," he said.

Modica Is Game
Hogs senior guard Jonathon Modica, who guarded Missouri standout Thomas Gardner and outscored him 19-11, may get a chance to go head to head against Ahearn also.

"I always accept the challenge," Modica said. "I don't back down from anybody. I know he's a good player, but I'm a good player also. I'm just glad coach Heath has confidence in me, and I think I've shown I've gotten better defensively."

Heath cited Modica's "attention to detail" this season as the difference in his defensive play.

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