BASKETBALL: Thomas Returns to Help Hogs

FAYETTEVILLE — The only noticeable difference in forward Charles Thomas was his hair, which is a little closer to becoming the mohawk he's been working on for a couple of weeks.

On the court, the senior looked much like that same player accustomed to battling for rebounds and picking up tough points in the paint during Arkansas' 80-61 win against No. 20 Florida on Saturday.

Thomas returned to the team after being suspended for the Mississippi State game after violating unspecified team rules. He chipped in 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 21 minutes off the bench.

The performance earned praise from coach John Pelphrey, who said early last week that he had never been more disappointed in a player's choices when he announced his decision to suspend the forward.

"I thought he was focused. I thought that he helped us in there, especially early," Pelphrey said. "He's a playmaker at that spot when he's in the right place mentally and got both feet in the ground."

Thomas didn't start for the second straight game. That nod went to sophomore Michael Washington.

In fact, he wasn't the second power forward off the bench. Senior Vincent Hunter stepped on the court before Thomas.

But Thomas began making a mark on the game after stepping on the court with 11:25 left in the half. He knocked down a short jump shot less than a minute later to give the Hogs a 19-8 lead. Thomas scored all eight of his points in the first half.

The Razorbacks also got a solid outing from Washington in the starting role. Washington had 8 points and 5 rebounds in 12 minutes. He gave the Hogs their biggest lead at 62-32 when he followed Darian Townes' missed layup with a dunk with 11:33 remaining.

"Charles always brings it if he starts or comes off the bench," Townes said. "He's the energy guy on the team and we do a lot of feeding off of him. But Mike Washington played real well today. He did terrific."

Townes Chips In

Townes also re-emerged Saturday after a sluggish stretch. The senior turned in his best performance in three weeks with 14 points. It ended a four-game stretch in which the senior — who is the team's third-leading scorer (10.7 points) — hadn't reached the double-digit mark.

Townes scored all 14 in the second half, helping the Razorbacks push around the smaller Gators. He said he was putting too much pressure on himself early, but a halftime pep talk from teammates helped.

"It was going to be a big game," Townes said. "I wanted to get a lot of revenge. The first half didn't go my way, but guys on the team talked to me and said, ‘Just stick with it, just keep playing hard and just let the first half go.'"

Beverley Keeps Boarding

Another game, another double-digit rebound performance for Arkansas guard Patrick Beverley.

The sophomore led the Hogs with 12 rebounds, 10 of which came on the defensive end. He entered the game tied with Alabama forward Richard Hendrix for the SEC lead in rebounds in league games (10.5).

The 6-foot-1 Beverley has 10 or more rebounds in five of Arkansas' seven SEC games. He continues to impress Pelphrey with his tenacity.

"What he's doing rebounding is unprecedented," Pelphrey said.

Petrino Appears

New Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino was introduced during the second timeout Saturday, bringing the sellout crowd to its feet.

Petrino, who will announce his first signing class Wednesday, stood on the court and waved at fans before calling the Hogs.

His appearance came during Arkansas' 11-0 spurt, which helped the Razorbacks build a 19-8 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Coaches vs. Cancer

Both coaching staffs lent their support to Coaches vs. Cancer foundation by wearing sneakers with their suits Saturday.

Pelphrey and the Arkansas staff wore white shoes, while Florida's Billy Donovan and the Gators sported black sneakers. Suits and Sneakers is a national event designed to raise awareness about Coaches vs. Cancer and the importance of cancer prevention and early detection.

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