Sharp-shooting Cowboys drop Mountaineers; KU is next

January 31, 2013

Hitting more than 50 percent of their three-point shots, Oklahoma State overcame a 13-point deficit to cruise to a 80-66 win over West Virginia Saturday.

The Cowboys hit 10 of 19 three-point shots, good for 52.6 percent, a season high.

Cowboy freshman Phil Forte poured in a career-high 26 points while Markel Brown added 24 points for OSU. Forte dished out a career-high four assists with no turnovers in 30 minutes. Forte is 24 of 26 from the line in Big 12 play, good for 92.3 percent. Forte’s 26 points are the most by a Cowboy this season.

“I have the easy part, all I have to do is step in and shoot it,” said Forte. “We have teammates and coaches that believe in me and want me to shoot the ball as much as possible, and that makes it easier to go out there with confidence and shoot the ball, and that’s my role on the team. They do a great job of trying to find me, put me in motion and in a position to be successful.”

Forte hit three 3-pointers for OSU (13-5, 3-3 Big 12) as part of a 19-3 surge to finish the first half, then connected on two more during an 11-4 run early in the second half.

“It’s obvious, they made shots and we didn’t,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “We helped them by leaving them open to get them started. It’s a lot easier to make one after you’ve made a couple. We helped off the wrong people at the wrong times.”

“This was a good win for us,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. ” I have a lot of respect for West Virginia’s team, I really do. They have a very nice squad. They’re hard to play against. They pressure you, they’re physical around the rim, and they pressure you on the perimeter. We have a lot of respect for West Virginia’s players and their coach.”

Eron Harris had 17 points to lead West Virginia and Deniz Kilicli scored 12 points.

The Cowboys overcame a slow start.

“We were very hesitant early in the game,” said Ford. “We didn’t handle the pressure early and we got caught chasing them on defense rather than guarding them. Once we started adjusting to their pressure, we were able to score a few more points. Then we jumped into a zone, and that helped us on both ends of the court. There were some long rebounds, and we were able to convert those into some open-court fast breaks to open the game up a little bit. We just got off to a slow start.”

OSU led the Big 12 Conference and ranked 18th nationally in free-throw percentage entering the game at 75.2 percent. OSU made 20 of 25 (80 percent) from the line vs West Virginia.

With three steals vs the Mountaineers, Marcus Smart now has 49 steals this season, tying Richard Dumas for the second-most by a freshman in school history.

Philip Jurick grabbed double-figure rebounds for the fifth time this season with 12. He scored a career-high eight points, just two points shy of his first career double-double. Jurick tied his career high with three assists.

“We’ve tried to send a message to all our players, especially the big guys inside, that we need to start finishing around the rim, go up strong, rebound the ball and have a physical presence around the rim,” Ford said of Jurick. “I thought we did that. I thought we did a great job of having a very physical presence around the rim.”

Ford said defense saved the day.

“We put 80 points on the board, so that helps us a little bit, knowing that we can do that, because we haven’t been putting the ball in the hole as well as we’d like,” Ford said. “But, we want to win with our defense, period. We want to win by rebounding the ball and having a tough mentality. I thought we did that. Even though we put the ball in the hole, I thought our toughness for most of the night was really good. It was a little slow early, but then we got very tough.”

OSU hosted Iowa State Wednesday night and they travel to Kansas Saturday for a 3 p.m. tipoff.