Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

January 26, 2013

Forte helps Oklahoma State fend off West Virginia

STILLWATER — Told he needed to change his jersey number right in the middle of the season, Oklahoma State freshman Phil Forte wasn’t even given an option. The number 13 was the only one immediately available, so that’s what he was getting.

Unlucky? Hardly.

Forte scored a career-high 26 points in his first game since the switch, Markel Brown added 24 points and Oklahoma State rallied from 13 points down to rout West Virginia 80-66 on Saturday.

“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.”

Forte had been wearing No. 10 before the university realized during the week that the number was never supposed to be worn again in honor of the 10 men killed when a team plane crashed on the way back from a game at Colorado in 2001. The number was retired during a halftime ceremony two years ago, and a banner hangs from the Gallagher-Iba Arena rafters in recognition.

“I was informed after the last game that the number 10 had been retired. I didn’t realize that. Nobody realized that,” said Ford, who was the coach at the time the number was retired.

“It’s been a weird deal. We wanted to do the right thing, so he took 13 and we retired 10.”

The 12th anniversary of the crash is Sunday, bringing a fresh reminder of the tragedy. Flowers were placed at a memorial in the arena lobby, a moment of silence was observed and former coach Eddie Sutton took part in a halftime presentation of a donation from funds raised by the annual “Remember the 10” Run to help with counseling services at the school, which also lost women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and three others in a plane crash in 2011.

Forte was at his best in the new number, making 6 of 11 from 3-point range to tie his career best for 3s in a game. Brown was 4 for 6 from behind the arc as Oklahoma State went 10 for 19. The Cowboys were a season-worst 2 for 16 on 3-pointers in their previous game, a loss at Baylor on Monday.

“It’s always good to win a game on this day. It always is, so everybody can feel good. We had some family members here today and it’s great that they got to see a good game and see the Cowboys win,” Ford said. “It’s always good to represent those guys in the best manner that we can.”

Forte hit three 3-pointers as the Cowboys (13-5, 3-3 Big 12) wiped away their big deficit with a 19-3 burst to finish the first half, then connected on two more during an 11-4 run early in the second half that put OSU in command. Oklahoma State’s lead stretched to 15 after an electrifying stretch that featured a three-point play off of a tip-in by Michael Cobbins, a steal and run-out slam by Marcus Smart and then Cobbins’ two-handed dunk.

The Mountaineers (9-10, 2-4) never got closer than 11 over the final 10 minutes.

“They made shots that we didn’t,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We kind of helped them. We helped them by leaving them to kind of get them started. It’s a lot easier to have to make one after you’ve made a couple.

“We helped off the wrong people and at the wrong times.”

Eron Harris scored 17 points to lead the Mountaineers, and Deniz Kilicli had 12 points before fouling out with 6:35 to play.

West Virginia’s first three weeks of Big 12 play have been filled with wild swings.

The Mountaineers blew a 12-point lead in the second half of their conference debut before losing to Oklahoma, overcame a late 10-point deficit to win at Texas in overtime and rallied from an 18-point second-half hole at Iowa State only to lose on a layup in the final seconds.

This one fit right in.

Terry Henderson had a two-handed slam and a 3-pointer as West Virginia used a 20-4 run to take control early, holding the Cowboys to just two baskets over an 11-minute stretch that featured Ford discarding his suit coat while fed up after an official’s call. Kilicli’s driving layup stretched the Mountaineers’ lead to 24-11 with 5? minutes left in the first half before Oklahoma State switched to an effective zone defense.

A flustered Huggins struggled to explain his team’s inconsistency, saying the problems are mental and not physical.

“We just let down for whatever reason,” Huggins said. “I don’t know. I don’t understand it. I’d like to be clairvoyant so I would know what they’re thinking because I have no clue.”

He described drawing up a play in a timeout after Oklahoma State had deployed its 2-3 zone, instructing his players to line up in a triple stack on one side of the court. When they went out to resume play, two were together in the stack and the third was standing on the wing instead of where he was supposed to be.

“I can’t get guys on the right side of the floor after a timeout,” said Huggins, who has 719 career wins. “I think if you look historically at my teams, we’ve scored at an extremely high rate after timeouts. I can’t get these guys on the right side of the floor. And they know it. They know the stuff. It’s not that they don’t know the stuff. I don’t know what goes through their heads.”

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