Townes Could Provide Answer

FAYETTEVILLE — John Pelphrey did a lot of thinking Wednesday night into Thursday afternoon. The bags under his eyes and the shaggy hair he sported while meeting with reporters gave that away.

Not too much sleep for Arkansas' first-year coach evidently after the Razorbacks' 59-56 loss Wednesday night at Alabama. One source of thought concerned the future of the power forward spot.

"The play is not very high there," Pelphrey said.

The collective play of Arkansas' three power forwards hadn't been sufficient even before the defeat that dropped the Hogs to 18-9 overall and 7-6 in the SEC. But Wednesday night, the Razorbacks' three power forwards struggled more than they had all season. Senior Charles Thomas, sophomore Michael Washington and senior Vincent Hunter scored five points and nabbed eight rebounds in 38 combined minutes.

That left two minutes unaccounted for, and backup center Darian Townes used those two minutes to show why he could provide an answer at power forward.

Arkansas trailed 40-34 with 10:54 left in Wednesday's loss when Washington picked up his third foul. Pelphrey could have called on Thomas or Hunter. Instead, he put Steven Hill in the game and slid Townes over to the power forward spot.

This was a move Pelphrey has resisted most of the year, only playing the two together when extreme foul trouble forced him. But after watching Hill and Townes together Wednesday night — for just 121 seconds — Pelphrey seems willing to give it another try Saturday against No. 14 Vanderbilt.

"Everything is on the table right now," Pelphrey said. "We were searching for something last night that would give us a chance, and they didn't do bad. You do have to change a few things when those two guys play together. ... But we only got five points (out of the power forwards)."

On the first possession after Townes entered, the 6-foot-10 senior received a pass at the top of the key and lobbed a pass over Alabama's Richard Hendrix to Hill. Hendrix fouled Hill as the 7-footer dropped in a layup, and Hill made the free throw.

Townes drilled a 16-foot jump shot on the next possession, a shot he wouldn't have the chance to take playing center. Hill picked up his third foul soon after, and Pelphrey replaced him with Thomas. Pelphrey didn't play them at the same time the rest of the night.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings likely won't get too excited if he sees both out on the floor together Saturday.

"It's very difficult to score around the goal against this team," Stallings said. "They've got one of the greatest shot blockers probably in the history of college basketball in Steven Hill. And then Townes comes in, and he's extremely long and very gifted around the goal."

Hill continued to show faith in the power forwards who haven't produced recently.

"We're pretty deep with the big men so we just want to have two or three guys clicking on all cylinders," Hill said.

Lately, though, Hill and Townes have been the only two.

Morning News staff writer ALEX ABRAMS CONTRIBUTED to the report



WHEN: 3:05 p.m. TV: Raycom (Cox Ch. 7)

WHERE: Bud Walton Arena

RECORDS: Vanderbilt, 24-4, 9-4 Southeastern Conference; Arkansas, 18-9, 7-6

RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3

COACHES: Vanderbilt, Kevin Stallings (168-112, 9th season; 291-175, 16 seasons); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (18-9, 1st season; 98-76, 6 seasons)

SERIES: Arkansas leads 13-7

LAST MEETING: Arkansas beat Vanderbilt 72-71 on March 9, 2007 in Atlanta in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament

Auburn at Arkansas on ESPN Classic

The Southeastern Conference announced Thursday that Arkansas' game against Auburn on March 8 was selected to air on ESPN Classic (Cox channel 122). The time for Arkansas' SEC finale has been moved to 5:05 p.m.

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