FORT SMITH, Ark. – Baron Smith Jr. scored 38 points, but the Rogers State men's basketball team came up short in a 73-69 loss at No. 22-ranked UA Fort Smith on Thursday (Nov. 30) at Stubblefield Center in the Heartland Conference opener.
With the Lions holding a slight 67-66 edge, UAFS's Darrion Strong-Moore hit a transition 3-pointer with 1:33 left for a 70-66 margin and the Lions made just enough free throws to hang on for the 73-69 victory.
Smith cut the margin to one point on a corner 3-pointer for a 70-69 score with 1:18 remaining, and after two missed free throws from UAFS, Smith had a chance to give RSU the lead, but he missed on a driving layup and the Cats were forced to foul with 29 seconds on the clock.
The Lions' Ladarius Coleman split two free throws for a 71-69 score, but RSU turned the ball over with 10 seconds left to end any opportunity to tie the score. UAFS ended RSU's hopes with two free throws by Strong-Moore with eight seconds remaining.
Smith started the game on fire scoring RSU's first seven points and 11 of 16 points during a game-opening 16-4 run in the first eight minutes. Smith opened the game's scoring with a triple at the 18:36 mark. He then scored on back-to-back baskets to up the RSU lead to 7-2 only three and a half minutes into the game.
Smith put the Cats up 16-4 with two free throws at the 11:53 mark for the 16-4 early advantage.
The Lions chipped away to tie the score at 31-31 late in the first half.
A 3-pointer with 23 seconds before half lifted UAFS to a 34-31 lead at the break.
Smith finished with the second-most points in school history with 38 on 12-of-20 shooting from the field and a 10-for-10 performance from the free throw line. He added four steals, three rebounds and two assists in 36 minutes. The 38 points ties J.C. Hartzler for second all-time in RSU history.
Saint Hilaire totaled 12 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench. Gage Loy pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
Strong-Moore posted a team-high 18 points for UAFS. Four Lions registered double digits in points. Kyree Elder went for a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Hillcats travel back home for a nonconference contest against Emporia State on Saturday (Dec. 2) at 4 p.m. inside the Claremore Expo Center. Coverage will be available on the Hillcat Network at www.rsuhillcats.com/live.
For more information on RSU basketball, go to rsuhillcats.com.