By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER – Phil Forte is quickly becoming a spark plug for the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team.
With the Cowboys on their heels early against West Virginia Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena, the freshman guard from Flower Mound, Texas, came in and knocked down a big 3-pointer – and continued to do so – to spark a surge that led to an 80-66 win over the Mountaineers.
“I have the easy part, all I have to do is step in and shoot it,” Forte said. “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.”
At the time of Forte’s first 3-pointer Oklahoma State was trailing by 13 with five minutes left in the first half. By the break, Forte would hit two more and give the Cowboys a 30-27 halftime advantage.
“We just had to settle our guys down and withstand the pressure they were putting on us,” OSU junior Markel Brown said. “We started attacking and getting the ball to the rim, kicking shots out to Phil in the corner helped us get back in the game.”
Forte would finish with a career-high 26 points – going 6 for 11 (54.5 percent) from 3-point range to tie career highs in both shots made and attempted from behind the arc. He also contributed with 4 assists.
Brown also got in on the perimeter shooting, going 4 for 6 (66.7 percent) from behind the arc to score and 8 for 13 from the field to score a season-high 24 points. Brown also led the Cowboys with a game-high 5 assists.
“I got Phil open for some shots and he got me some assists, and I returned the favor. We took a lot of good shots and they were falling,” Brown said.
Despite West Virginia having taller, heavier guys in the post, Oklahoma State held the rebound advantage over the Mountaineers, 34-28, with Philip Jurick hauling in a game-high 12 rebounds to go with 8 points – which was a career high for the senior transfer.
“He was a terrific. His rebounding was great and the 8 points is great, but it’s just a bonus for us,” OSU coach Travis Ford said of Jurick. “It’s great when we can get 8 points from him, but I really loved the rebounds he was getting early in the game – especially above the rim. He brought us a big presence inside.”