BASKETBALL: Townes Shines in Starting Role

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas center Darian Townes found out he was stepping into the starting lineup on the long trip back from Alabama, where he had just scored 17 points in the Razorbacks' loss.

So he had Thursday to prepare for the new role. Friday, too. But when Townes was introduced with the rest of Arkansas' starters before the 78-73 win against Vanderbilt, he admitted there was one thing he didn't account for in his preparation.

"My heart was beating real fast," Townes said.

The extra dose of adrenaline didn't hurt the Razorbacks' big man against the Commodores. Townes earned his first start this season and responded by scoring 13 points and grabbing two rebounds.

The senior — who started in place of senior Steven Hill — was one of two lineup changes Pelphrey made in hopes of shaking the Razorbacks out of their funk. In addition, senior Vincent Hunter started at power forward. It was his third start this season.

"Darian is playing very well," coach John Pelphrey said "We're going to need him down the stretch. He's certainly very, very talented."

The decision to start Townes seemed to spark the Razorbacks — even if he got off to a rugged start in the first few minutes.

Townes had a hand in turnovers on Arkansas' first two possessions. He also missed his first shot. But Townes settled in and gave the Razorbacks a big lift in the post in the first half.

He scored nine of his 13 points before the break, flipping the ball in the bucket over Vanderbilt's big men. His final bucket of the half came on an acrobatic dunk on the break. Townes stuffed the ball through the rim as he was fouled by Vandy's Darshawn McClellan.

Townes completed the three-point play to give the Hogs a 40-28 lead, its biggest of the half.

"That's the Darian Townes that we see in practice every day," Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin said. "We know what he's capable of doing. We know he's capable of being the best big man in (the SEC) and he's showing it now and it's not coming at a bigger time."

Townes only attempted three shots in the second half and finished 5-for-9 from the floor. But it was the seventh time in the past eight games he has scored in double figures.

So, overall, Townes believes his first start of the season — as well as his first start since the 83-72 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 24, 2007 — was a success. But was it enough to hold onto the starting job?

Townes said he didn't want to guess.

"You never know," Townes said. "If so, that would be real great."

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