Townes Puts Incident Behind Him

FAYETTEVILLE -- Charles Thomas smiled for many different reasons Saturday afternoon.

The Razorbacks drilled No. 8 Alabama by 27 points. Gary Ervin scored 18 points and dished out a season-high 11 assists. Steven Hill blocked four shots. Sonny Weems unleashed two soaring slams. The largest crowd of the season showed up in Bud Walton Arena.

But Thomas saved his widest grin for an embattled teammate. For the days leading up to Arkansas' Southeastern Conference opener, Darian Townes dealt with the fallout from his in-game incident Tuesday with Hogs coach Stan Heath.

Townes responded Saturday, scoring eight points, blocking four shots and earning loads of respect from his teammates. Especially from Thomas, who couldn't stop smiling when describing his excitement for Townes.

"Man, he had to go through so much," Thomas. "And for him to come out and be positive the way he was, I'm so proud of him."

After the Tulsa game, Heath decided Townes' early send-off to the locker room was punishment enough. Heath said he saw true remorse from Townes when he apologized the next day.

In fact, Townes looked like a different person Saturday. At times this season, he has bickered at teammates, pouted to referees and screamed at himself.

Against the Crimson Tide, Townes appeared calm. He had a smile on his face for most of the game. He honestly seemed to enjoy playing basketball.

"We know Darian as a good, fun guy," Beverley said. "If he brings that onto the court like he did, I'm sure that'll be better for him. He played a great game, and we really needed him."

Undoubtedly, the Hogs will need him increasingly more as conference play progresses. Townes' talent is undeniable. He is agile and athletic at 6-foot-10, and those talents were immediately on display Saturday.

He entered the game with 13 minutes, 43 seconds left in the first half, with Arkansas leading 14-2. There was no dropoff with Townes on the floor.

Townes drew a charge from Richard Hendrix and blocked four shots in the first half.

"He's just like Steven," swingman Sonny Weems said. "He makes the other team think twice before trying to shoot over him."

In the second half, Townes got offensive. Townes came in even earlier in the second half and quickly scored on a layup, perfectly sealing his defender. The next time down court, Townes floated in a 5-foot hook shot.

Later in the game, he scored on two strong post moves and assisted on a Thomas basket.

Thomas said he thought Tuesday's incident marked a wake-up call for Townes. He also said the Razorbacks realized the importance Townes will play in the tough SEC.

"Seeing him make that kind of impact made me so happy," Thomas said.

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