Hillcats overcome 20-point deficit to down Arkansas-Fort Smith

From RSU Sports Info.
Scott Slarks, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications

CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Rogers State men’s basketball team overcame a 20-point, second-half deficit to win 100-95 over Heartland Conference favorite UA Fort Smith Thursday at the Claremore Expo Center.

With the victory, the Hillcats stayed perfect at 10-0, one of only five remaining undefeated teams in NCAA Division II, and moved to 2-0 in conference play.

The Hillcats faced a 20-point deficit with 12:40 left as the Lions held a 71-51 advantage, but RSU needed less than three minutes to cut the margin to 10. Over the next 2:48, the Hillcats went on a 12-2 spurt started by Johnathon Buckley’s three-pointer and back-to-back layups from Robert Johnson and J.C. Hartzler to cut the deficit to 14. Hartzler knocked down a triple, and Buckley pulled the Hillcats to within 10 with a layup at the 10:09 mark of the second half.

RSU continued to chip away as another Hartzler three made it a three-point deficit, 78-75. With the Hillcats down, 95-90, they ended the contest with a 10-0 run in the final 2:08. Hartzler caught fire late, again hitting from deep to pull RSU to within one at 95-93. After Buckley made one free throw for a 95-94 score, Johnson gave the Hillcats their first lead of the night with an offensive rebound and tip-in with 33 seconds left for a 96-95 edge sending the crowd into a frenzy.

The Hillcat defense got a stop on the next UAFS possession as RSU forced a turnover with 11 seconds remaining. Donald Moore hit two free throws to put the Hillcats up 98-95 with 10 seconds left and put the game away knocking down two more free throws with seven seconds left for the 100-95 score.

To start the game, the Lions went 10-of-12 shooting from the field and built a 28-12 advantage. Down 47-33, the Hillcats closed the second half on a 12-2 run to trail by only four, 49-45, after the first 20 minutes.

In the second half, UAFS started with a 14-2 spurt to run out to a 63-47 lead. The Lions opened up a 71-51 advantage with 12:40 remaining before the Hillcat rally to remain unbeaten on the season.

Moore went 14-for-14 shooting from the free throw line and the senior from Chicago Heights, Illinois has made 42-straight attempts this season spanning five games. For the season, Moore ranks in the top 10 nationally with a 95 percent free throw percentage.

Moore finished with a game-high 28 points and added nine assists in 39 minutes. After a slow start, Hartzler finished with 18 points behind four threes. Buckley provided a spark off the bench, scoring a career-high 16 points, going 7-of-10 from the field. Johnson finished with a double-double of 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.

UAFS’s Seth Youngblood and Dusan Stojanovic each scored 23 points, while Alex Cooper added 21 points as the Lions saw their five-game win streak snapped, despite leading the game for 38:27 of 40 minutes played.

The Hillcats (10-0 overall, 2-0 HC) host Texas-Permian Basin on New Year’s Eve. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Claremore Expo Center. Follow the action live on the Hillcat Network at www.rsuhillcats.com/live.