Forte's Hot Hand Propels OSU

Saturday, January 26th 2013, 4:13 pm
By: News 9

Phil Forte might be wearing a new number but 13 proved to be far from unlucky for Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Forte had to give up the No. 10, which he has been wearing all season, because the school retired the number to honor the 10 men who died in the tragic OSU basketball plane crash on Jan. 27, 2001.

With the school honoring the 12th anniversary of the tragedy this weekend, Forte willingly conceded his jersey – and then he turned in the best performance of his young career.

Outfitted in his new No. 13, Forte poured in a career-best 26 points in Oklahoma State's 80-66 victory against West Virginia in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

With the Cowboys trailing 24-11 with five minutes left in the first half, Forte provided a needed spark that energized the team and the home crowd. The freshman guard buried a 3-pointer that spearheaded a 19-3 OSU run to end the opening half and give the Cowboys a lead they would never relinquish.

Forte finished the game 6-of-11 from the 3-point line and three of those 3's found the basket during the Pokes' late first-half run to claim the lead.

"I can't complain, 13 worked well today," Forte said. "I'm going to stay with that number. I understand the circumstance, it's out of my control, and there's nothing I could do about it and it's for a good reason."

Cowboy fans are hoping No. 13 will have plenty more performances where this came from, however, Forte wasn't the only Cowboy guard on fire on Saturday in Stillwater.

Markel Brown scored 24 of his own against the Mountaineers, including 4-of-6 from behind the arc, giving the backcourt duo 50 points and 10 3-pointers.

Marcus Smart was the only other Cowboy in double figures with 13 points in 34 minutes. Smart had an uncharacteristic seven turnovers but had four assists, three rebounds and three steals.

OSU outshot the Mountaineers 48.1 percent to 42.9 percent. The Cowboys also connected on 10-of-19 from 3-point range, with Forte and Brown accounting for all 10 makes.

Center Phil Jurick had a solid game for the Pokes with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and a game-best 12 rebounds and two blocks.

Eron Harris led WVU in scoring with 17 points while forward Deniz Kilicli added 12.

With the victory, OSU improved to 13-5 on the season and 3-3 in Big 12 play. The Mountaineers fell to 9-10 and 2-4 in the league.

Despite WVU's subpar record, OSU coach Travis Ford emphasized that the Mountaineers are better than their record.

"This was a good win for us. I have a lot of respect for West Virginia's team, I really do," Ford said. "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."

OSU returns to action on Wednesday when the Cowboys host Iowa State at 7 p.m. in Gallagher-Iba Arena.