Sunday, March 27, 2011
A Tale of Two Seasons
RSU Men’s Basketball sets new records in the history books.
If you would have asked head coach Justin Barkley at the start of the 2010-11 basketball season if his program had the chance of making a deep run in the national tournament, the question probably would have been difficult to answer.
Maybe a little crazy.
Respectively, anyone who second-guessed the Rogers State men’s basketball team should have guessed again.
The Hillcats concluded their season reaching the Elite Eight round of the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City, Mo., going further than any team in program history.
“This team is very resilient,” said Barkley. “They’ve definitely raised the bar here at Rogers State.”
RSU men opened the first round of the national tournament in thrilling fashion knocking off No. 5 nationally ranked Texas Wesleyan 66-64.
The Hillcats battled back and forth with TWU trailing by as much as 13 points in the game, capturing their first lead of the second half with 13 seconds left on the clock.
All season, the men’s team experienced numerous double-digit deficits, pulling out slim victories including the wins against Southern Nazarene, Oklahoma Baptist and Lubbock Christian.
So the challenge against TWU was nothing new for RSU.
“We’ve been in those positions all year,” said junior point guard Maurice Rutherford.
After blowing past Carroll College in the second round 66-45, RSU men witnessed their historical season come to a close against No. 3 nationally ranked Mountain State University 69-62 in the quarterfinals.
Seniors John Boyd, Matt Kellogg, Chris Francis, Brandon Mims and Alburey Doss played their final game in a Hillcat uniform.
Barkley described his squad’s national run performance to the Elite Eight as the ultimate team production.
“Each and every night somebody different was stepping up,” said Barkley. “This wouldn’t have been able to all come together, if it wasn’t for a cast of characters.”
The Hillcats finished the season ranked No. 25 in the nation with a 22-12 overall record and are now 2-2 all-time at the NAIA Tournament.
This season, they knocked off four Top-25 teams with three of them finishing in the Top 10 in the final coaches poll.
A team that was looked upon as having a rebuilding season shook up the Sooner Athletic Conference and left their mark in the NAIA national tournament exceeding everyone’s expectations, including their own.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Weaver