ATLANTA - Darian Townes has been kidded since he arrived on the University of Arkansas campus about his vertical jump and chastised about the effort the junior forward puts forth on the basketball court at times.
But there was nothing wrong with either on Thursday.
Townes had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals with several of those points coming via his running the floor in the Razorbacks' 82-52 thumping of South Carolina Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.
"I just wanted to get back at South Carolina for what they did to us down there," Townes said of a six-point UA loss to the Gamecocks in the regular season. "I feel like we came out there and did that today and everybody who got out on the floor really brought it today."
That included one steal at halfcourt – which may be the first of his the 6-10 player's career and was one of two that Townes and fellow big man Steven Hill had in the win.
"It kind of fired us up," Sonny Weems said of the big men running the floor. "We're used to Steve doing it in practice, but when Darian's doing it, it's kind of a surprise and it gets everybody pump."
Townes had five dunks - four in the second half - while going 7-of-9 from the field in the game.
"I just wanted to finish real strong around the basket when I got near it," Townes said. "We all just worked real hard and played with our heart. We have momentum on our side and we are out there having fun."
Actually Arkansas increased its second half lead with reserves Townes and freshman Michael Washington (9 points, 3 rebounds) in a game where the Razorbacks post players put in 40 points.
"Well, it's a little deceptive about that," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "Michael Washington might be playing as well as any of my big guys right now. Because he's a freshman, I don't start him – that's all.
"And Darian, we all know Darian can realty get it going at times and he can be one of the tougher post guys in the league when things are clicking," Heath added. "It's one of the strengths of the basketball team. I thought we utilized it pretty well today, going inside and trying to attack them in the paint."
Steven Hill (8 points, 10 rebounds) and Charles Thomas started and while Thomas struggled through an 0-of-6 shooting day, he did grab 9 rebounds.
"You can look at all four of my big guys and make an argument who is your starter, who could come off the bench and you wouldn't be wrong," Heath said.
South Carolina forwaed Brandon Wallace – who had 16 points and 15 rebounds - felt like he was battling an endless array of big guys.
"Excellent," Wallace said. "Speaks for itself. 40 points in the pair – that's outstanding."
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Arkansas is now 3-0 since watching the inspirational movie "Facing the Giants" on the day after a humbling home loss to Tennessee back on Feb. 24.
Razorback freshman star Patrick Beverley believes that the movie – which talks about playing for more than yourself and doing so to honor God – has spurred his team on.
"I think that movie really checked a lot of people's egos," Beverley said. "We really want to show our real character after watching that movie. I am a very religious person and I think that God works in mysterious ways and I think he is doing that now in how he has been blessing his team and blessing me this year."
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It's no secret that there has been a lot of speculation about Heath's job status and reports that he would be let go if Arkansas doesn't make the NCAA Tournament in this his fifth year.
Heath said his philosophy has been to tell his team not to even think about that.
"I don't think there is a whole lot to talk on about that,' Heath said. "You know we live in this world right now and there is internet and talk (shows) and this, that and the other. When you are 18, 19 and 20 year olds, its easy to get distracted quickly if you are reading and listening to things.
"My primary goal is to keep these guys focused on the task at hand and just let whatever happens, happens," Heath added. "When we are playing together, we're playing hard out there and we are having fun. "
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According to RealtimeRPI.com, Arkansas was sitting at No. 47 in RPI and 13th in strength of schedule after the win on Thursday.
Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Auburn were all behind Arkansas in those ratings.
The Razorbacks have 8 wins over Top 20 foes this season, are 6-4 in their last 10 games, 1-3 against top 25 teams, 3-2 against teams from 26-50 and 5-5 against teams rated from 51-100.
"I know that I feel in my heart if we played in some other conferences, we'd have a lot better conference record right now," Heath said. "…But I think we've got to continue to win. We just can' leave it at chance. We've got to win games and that is the attitude I am taking."
o o o
…Bud Walton Arena public address announcer Johnny George is serving in the same role at the SEC Tournament this weekend.
…Arkansas scored 51 points in the second half on Thursday while shooting 55 percent from the field.
…Former Razorback basketball star U.S. Reed was introduced as one of the SEC's Legends at halftime – albeit he played for Arkansas when it was in the Southwest Conference.
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