Hillcats battle to victory over Central Oklahoma

Benjamin Dishong Rogers State University

EDMOND – Rogers State Men’s Basketball battled its way to a key MIAA road win with a 70-65 victory over in-state rival Central Oklahoma on Saturday at Hamilton Field House.

Christopher Miller was nearly perfect from the floor to lead the way for the Hillcats (14-4, 6-3 MIAA), who had four players finish in double figures, and completed the season sweep of Central Oklahoma (7-11, 4-5 MIAA) with the victory.

How It Happened: The Hillcats and Bronchos traded the lead 16 times and tied it seven more times in a contest that was never separated by more than seven points.

Jett Sternberger hit a long jumper and a three pointer on the first two possessions of the game for the Hillcats, to give the visitors control early. However, Rogers State was never able to grow the lead past four points early in the first half.

After the lead changed on five-straight possession nearing the midpoint of the first half, Central Oklahoma was able to take slight control on hold a lead for a large portion of the first half. The score would remain close though, as the Hillcats never fell behind by more than five points.

Rogers State made a late sure with a jumper from Gabriel Ferreira followed by a fast break layup from Marques Sumner with three seconds left in the half to cut the deficit to just one, headed into the halftime break with Central Oklahoma ahead 35-34.

Early in the second half the lead would changes hands again on five-straight possessions before Rogers State regained control midway through the half. The Hillcats would go up by seven on a three pointer from Sumner with 10-16 remaining.

Central Oklahoma would cut the deficit to one, but the Hillcats led the remainder of the way, holding the lead over the final 13:10 of the game.

After the Bronchos cut the deficit to 66-65 with a three-point play on a layup and free throw from Cam Givens with 18 seconds to go, Brewster Beacock and Ferreira would sink all four free throws attempted to close out the victory.

Key Statistic: Rogers State was 11-for-11 from the free-throw line in the second half, including 6-for-6 in the final minute of play to secure the victory.

Players of Note: Miller came off the bench in Saturday’s victory and finished 8-of-9 from the field to lead the Hillcats with 16 points. The senior forward also had a pair of rebounds and a block.

Sumner was second in scoring for the Hillcats and contributed all over the floor, finishing with 11 points. He added four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 29 minutes before fouling out.

Sternberger and Ferreira each finished with 10 points in the game. Sternberger added two assists, while Ferreira was the joint leader in rebounds for the Hillcats, joining Peacock with six boards.

Tavian Davis matched a season high with four steals in the game and also added six assists to go along with nine points.

Notes: Rogers State’s 42 points in the paint is the second highest output for the Hillcats this season and a season best in MIAA play.

Miller’s 16 points is a career high off the bench. It is his third time leading the Hillcats in scoring and the first time he has led the Hillcats in scoring off the bench this season.

Rogers State remains perfect this season when scoring at least 70 points in a game, going 11-0 through the first 18 games.

The victory secures a regular season sweep of Central Oklahoma for the Hillcats, who defeated the Bronchos 64-57 in Claremore on December 5 to open up MIAA play.

The Hillcats improved to 4-1 in the all-time series with Central Oklahoma and are now 3-0 all time when playing at Central Oklahoma.

Head coach Justin Barkley is now three wins shy of the 200-win milestone. In his 10th season, Rogers State has a 197-92 record under Barkley. He has led RSU to at least 16 wins each season, never having a losing record, and has reached the 20-win plateau six times.

What It Means: Rogers State has now won three-straight games in response to the three-game losing skid to begin 2020 and sit in fourth in the MIAA Standings with Thursday’s game representing the midpoint of the conference season.

Up Next: Rogers State will return to the Claremore Expo Center on Thursday for the first of two games at home, as the Hillcats welcome in the University of Central Missouri on January 23. Tip off between the Mules and Hillcats is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.