By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State renewed its commitment Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena and Texas Tech took the full brunt of it.
After a week of 6 a.m. practices in what was known as “Commitment Week,” the Cowboys crushed the Red Raiders 79-45 to get back even in Big 12 Conference play.
“It paid off for us today,” freshman guard Phil Forte said. “We just took the week to focus on getting back to the fundamentals that we had gotten away from. We just got back to the little things that were making us successful and I think that showed today.”
Though Texas Tech slowed down OSU freshman point guard Marcus Smart, who was hampered by foul trouble for the second straight game, the Cowboys (12-4, 2-2 in Big 12) got plenty of production from junior Markel Brown and Smart’s high school teammate Forte.
Brown scored a game-high 21 points, while also distributing 6 assists while having to spend some time at the point with Smart on the bench. Though the junior guard had no rebounds — which Ford attributed to the fact that Brown was largely guarding Tech’s top perimeter threats — Brown also had a zero in a more important category — turnovers.
“I thought he played a terrific game. You look across his stat line and it’s a great, great stat line,” Ford said of Brown, who delivered a highlight-reel dunk in the second half as part of an 8-0 run to spark the Cowboys out of the halftime break. “... I liked his shot selection, I liked where he got his shots and then for him to get 6 assists, no turnovers was very good to see.”
With Brown dunking the ball, the Cowboys got a presence from the perimeter with Forte. The 5-foot-11 freshman shooting guard knocked down 4 of 7 3-pointers — the only shots he took from the field — and finish with 19 points.
“Making threes really gets you going. And when you can make multiple threes like he was doing, it makes everything else look good,” Ford said of Forte, who is shooting 39 percent from 3-point range and has made 40 for the season.
While Brown and Forte led the show on offense, it was a total team effort on the defensive side.
The Cowboys held Texas Tech (8-8, 1-4) to a season-worst 28 percent shooting. It was even worse for the Red Raiders in the second half, when they went 4 for 22 (18 percent).
“I liked our intensity level, I liked our sense of urgency and liked how our guys carried over what we worked on in practice as far as the identity of our defense and what we want it to look like and what we want it to be,” Ford said.
“... But that’s great for today. I told our team I was not jumping for joy in the locker room. I told them, ‘This is who you need to be, this is who you should be and this is the only thing we’re going to accept and guys. If you’re not going to do it, then we’ve got other guys that are playing.’”
Helping the cause for the Cowboys on defense was the improvement in rebounding — another aspect focused on during “Commitment Week.” OSU hauled down 17 more rebounds than the Red Raiders, led by Philip Jurick with 11 and Michael Cobbins with 9, and limited Texas Tech to just 5 offensive rebounds.
“We played well today. They caught us upset,” Ford said. “... That’s one of the best rebounding teams, averaging 14 offensive rebounds in league — and that’s against Baylor, against Kansas — and we hold them to 5 offensive rebounds. We played well today, now we just need to do it Monday and continue to do. But we rebounded the ball today like we rebounded in practice, so that was good to see.”
Oklahoma State will have a short turnaround following Saturday’s blowout. The Cowboys will return to the road for a Monday contest with Baylor in Waco, Texas — the site of OSU’s worst loss last year with a 106-65 drubbing by the Bears.
“We left that game behind, that was a terrible game we played down there. It’s time for us to go down there, respond and play the way we are capable of playing and put the pressure on them to make plays and come out with a victory,” Brown said.
Jason Elmquist is the sports editor for the Stillwater NewsPress.