RSU men finding ways to win
If you want to win games in the Sooner Athletic Conference, you have to come ready to play each night. There’s no question.
So when the Rogers State men’s basketball team steps out on the hardwood, there’s no doubt in their mind that it’s going to be a claw fight to the top.
“Right now is the time of the year that I feel like if you want to separate yourself, you’re going to have to start playing good basketball,” said RSU men’s Head Coach Justin Barkley.
And so far the New Year has been good for the Hillcats as they kicked off 2011 on a 5-1 high note suffering their only loss to nationally ranked No. 7 Oklahoma Baptist University.
Yet, the winning column has not been by a long shot for RSU. The Cats are pulling out grueling victories by as few as one point and as much as eight.
For junior point guard Maurice Rutherford, winning margins does not matter.
“Any win is a good win, even by one,” said Rutherford.
In the 73-72 victory over Lubbock Christian, RSU men showcased a hard fought performance for the Hillcat fans.
With just over a minute left in the game senior guard Deverick Taylor gave the Cats a 73-69 lead with layup to the basket. But an unfortunate half court turnover from forward Larry Cox led to a three point conversion play for LCU, slicing RSU’s lead 73-72 with 50 seconds left in the contest.
The Cats never lost composure. As seconds rolled off the Hillcats play clock, Cox was forced to shoot from three-point range. The ball rimmed out. But a diving scramble to the loose ball earned Matt Kellogg the offensive rebound and potentially saved the Hillcats from defeat.
“As we tell our kids those are 50-50 plays, and it’s who comes up with the most 50-50 plays are going to decide close games,” said Barkley.
Hard fought performances by the RSU men can also be accounted for the wins against Oklahoma City, St. Gregory’s, Mid-American and Wayland Baptist. And in the SAC league, Barkley knows his players have got to be on edge at all times.
“Those are games we probably would have lost the first semester,” said Barkley. “Now, we’re finding ways how to win games.”
With Rutherford and Cox in the rotation, the Hillcats have more bullets for opponents to dodge spreading out playing minutes and distribution of the ball.
Hot shooting displayed by Taylor, Kellogg and senior guard Chris Francis from beyond the arc, ranks the Hillcats top 20 in the country and 3rd in the SAC hitting 37.6% from three-point range.
Then when you add the stellar performance of power forward John Boyd in the mix who leads the team in points (17.4), rebounds (7.2) and nearly a block each game, there’s no way the RSU men’s team are going down without a fight.
As the conference season continues to progress, RSU is looking to tackle each team, one game at a time. The Hillcat men will have their chance for revenge against Oklahoma Baptist, February 3 at the Expo Center. Tip-off is set for 8 P.M.
Photo by gssphotography.com
* Stats as of Jan. 19*
* For current men basketball conference standings go to soonerathletic.org
* For men basketball schedule go to rsuhillcats.com website