STILLWATER—With seven newcomers on board plus a new conference affiliation in place, there will be a lot of moving parts this season for the Rogers State men’s basketball season.
If the Hillcats’ first outing in a game-type atmosphere is any indication, Rogers State might well maintain the success it has enjoyed in the last decade.
Facing a stern test on the road against Big 12 Conference member Oklahoma State, the Hillcats held their own through the first media timeout of the second half before the Cowboys’ athleticism began to take charge in an eventual 75-63 Oklahoma State victory in exhibition action Friday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Ricardo Lynch, one of the team’s newcomers who played a year ago at Stetson (Fla.) University, led all scorers with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, including 3-of-5 from three-point range.
Marques Sumner, a teammate of Lynch’s a year ago at Stetson, added 10 points and six rebounds for the Hillcats, while Tavian Davis, the only senior who has been with the program all four seasons, chipped in 10 points along with four assists.
After falling behind early by 10 points, Rogers State closed to within one in the first half and still trailed by only three points with 16 minutes to play, but a 23-4 Cowboys surge over a nine-minute span of the second half ended any hopes of a Hillcats upset in the fourth meeting of the teams in the series history.
“I probably did not have our basketball team prepared well enough for a team with the athleticism Oklahoma State has,” Rogers State coach Justin Barkley said.
“We had to completely scrap our offensive game plan about six minutes in.”
Rogers State’s Christopher Miller scored the game’s first basket, but from there, Oklahoma State tallied 19 of the next 26 points to open a 19-9 lead with 9:03 remaining in the first half.
But Lynch hit his second and third three 3-pointer of the opening half to ignite an 11-2 Rogers State run.
Sumner’s trey, the fifth of the game for the Hillcats, brought the visitors to within 21-20 with 6:26 to go before halftime.
“We made some shots that allowed us to hang around in the first half,” Barkley said.
Rogers State was still down by only three points with a little more than a minute to play in the first half when Hidde Roessink notched five-unanswered points to give the Cowboys a 37-29 edge at the break.
The Hillcats, thanks to seven offensive boards in the opening 20 minutes, stayed in the game despite shooting only 32.1 percent (9 of 28) from the field in the half.
Rogers State had opportunities to take the lead in the early stages of the second half but turnovers—the Hillcats had 11 in the final half—plagued the team and set the stage for Oklahoma State’s game-deciding scoring burst.
Ironically, it was a pair of Cowboys with Tulsa ties—twins Kalib and Keylan Boone, who starred at Memorial High School—that led the Cowboys’ charge.
Keylan Boone’s putback basket, his only points of the night, triggered the scoring spree. Kalib Boone, who matched Roessink for team-high scoring honors with 13, later slammed home a dunk off a lob from Lindy Waters for a 12-point Oklahoma State cushion.
A traditional three-point play from Yor Anei, off another Waters assist, made it 62-40 with 6:56 left.
From there, the Hillcats would get no closer than the final 12-point margin.
Lynch connected on three straight baskets down the stretch to help Rogers State close the gap.
“We have a bunch of new guys, and this was really the first time that we had a chance to mesh together,” said Lynch, who played 23 minutes while coming off the bench.
“It was really fun,” Lynch, a 6-foot-7 senior, said about playing Oklahoma State. “I enjoyed the experience. They have a lot of athletic dudes.”
The Cowboys athleticism proved to be too much for the Hillcats to overcome.
“I thought we went to battle with a team with their size, and that shows our team’s character,” Barkley said.
“I thought we played our tails off and did that defensively.”
Barkley, in his 10th year directing Rogers State, added, “I thought we had to exceed their effort. I thought our effort and energy was great.”
Brewster Peacock, a product of Verdigris High School and one of three returning starters, paced all rebounders with eight before he fouled out with 9:30 to play.
Peacock, the leading scorer returning from last year with his 10.6 points per game as a sophomore, finished 0-for-6 from the field with only one point.
After having been a Heartland Conference member the last six years, Rogers State will compete in the MIAA this season.
Barkley called the 14-team conference “the best league at the small-college level.”
The conference features last year’s NCAA Division II national champion in Northwest Missouri State.
Since the men’s basketball program started in 2007-08, Rogers State has never finished worse than fifth in the conference standings.
Barkley, meanwhile, has guided the program to at least 16 wins in each of his previous nine seasons as head coach, including six 20-win seasons and no losing campaigns.