Two of the best men’s basketball coaching minds in the Sooner Athletic Conference square off at 8 p.m. on Thursday night at the Claremore Expo Center.
Third-year Rogers State University head coach Justin Barkley will guide his No. 9 Hillcats into battle against veteran Oklahoma Baptist University head coach Doug Tolin and the No. 1-ranked Bison.
The friendship between Barkley and Tolin goes back many years — mostly before Barkley was even born — as Tolin became close friends with Justin’s father, Clyde, who is the head basketball coach at Inola High School.
Off the court, the Barkleys and Tolins are nearly inseparable and enjoy telling stories of their families activities and successes.
But, on the court, it’s strictly business as RSU and OBU — year in and year out — sit atop the SAC standings with conference titles on the line.
Since Barkley has taken over the RSU men’s basketball program, the former Inola All-State power forward and Northeastern State University national champion is 1-3 against Tolin and the OBU Bison.
Barkley’s first head coaching win over OBU came on Feb. 21, 2011 in a home game that RSU won, 72-61.
OBU, however, leads the all-time series, 7-4; but RSU does have a 3-2 overall record against the Bison inside the Claremore Expo Center.
Can Barkley move to 2-3 against OBU and steer the Hillcats back in a positive direction with their first SAC win of the 2012-13 season?
The Bison (14-2 overall, 2-0 SAC) are averaging 81.3 points in 16 games this season, while holding opponents to 58 points.
OBU senior guard David Johnson (6-1, 195) leads the Bison in scoring with 14.69 points per contest.
In back-to-back SAC wins over Lubbock Christian and Wayland Baptist, Johnson scored in double figures with 16 and 13 points, respectively.
OBU’s size in the paint could be the difference as the Bison have two 6-foot-7 forwards and a 6-foot-9 center.
Marques Anderson (6-7, 225) leads the Bison with 120 total rebounds for an average of 8.1 per game.
RSU’s leading rebounder — Ken Holdman — is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound point guard. Holdman has 70 total rebounds for an average of 4.5 per game.