Double Trouble: Forte, Nash Lead Cowboys

Phil Forte and Le’Bryan Nash weren’t going to let the Oklahoma State Cowboys lose on Tuesday night in Kansas City. The two veterans combined to score all of the Cowboys’ 14 points in overtime as OSU overcame a 12-point, second-half deficit to rally for a 74-72 overtime victory over the Missouri Tigers at the Sprint Center.

The Cowboys improve to 10-2 as they closed out the non-conference portion of their schedule. They begin Big 12 Conference play at 11 a.m. Saturday against Kansas State at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Missouri falls to 5-7.

But head coach Travis Ford’s team did have its anxious moments against the Tigers, including allowing an offensive rebound following a missed free throw and a miss by Missouri’s D’Angelo Allen from point-blank range as the buzzer expired to allow the Cowboys to claim their 10th win of the season.

“I think Phil and LB (Nash) scored all of our points in overtime. Those are two guys who didn’t have very good first halves,” Ford said. “I wasn’t very happy with LB at halftime, and he responded like a senior should. I wasn’t happy with (Anthony) Hickey at halftime, and he responded like a senior should. They showed some toughness in the second half. The whole team did.

“This is no excuse but we were very sick out there. Phil Forte was really sick. After about four minutes (into the game), the trainer came over and said he didn’t think he was going to be able to play, and then he plays 40 minutes. Michael Cobbins, I didn’t think he was going to be able to play. I had to keep bringing him in and out (of the game). We’ve had a lot of guys under the weather and I think it showed the first half. We looked like we were in mud. We did nothing right.

“I’m proud of how we won the second half, but with the understanding that we’ve got to start playing better.”

Forte and Nash each scored 18 points after halftime, and finished tied for a team-high with 21 points for the game.

The 6-7 Nash scored eight of his 21 in overtime, including what proved to be a pair of game-winning free throws with 5.4 seconds showing on the clock. Forte scored the Cowboys’ other points in the extra period, including a step-back jumper with just over two minutes remaining that gave OSU a 70-69 lead.

The Cowboys trailed 31-24 at the half, in part because Forte and Nash had each scored just three points. Missouri increased the lead to 38-26 early in the second half before OSU went on a 15-2 run – sparked by Forte, Nash and Anthony Hickey – over the next five minutes to pull ahead 41-40.

Nash was 13 of 18 from the free-throw line, including sinking four of five in overtime. The 18 attempts from the charity stripe is a career high and the 13 makes ties his career best.

But free throws almost proved to be the Cowboys downfall against the Tigers. OSU only made one of its first nine free throws in the game before making 22 of its final 27.

Joining Forte and Nash in double figures was Hickey, who finished with 14 points and a career-high eight rebounds. Michael Cobbins added eight points and eight rebounds.

“I was happy we won this game. I wasn’t happy with the way we played necessarily, but I was very happy with how we won,” Ford said. “We won because we had to fight it out, we had to grind it out. We did nothing well. We didn’t shoot the ball well, we didn’t make free throws, but we defended in the second half.

“We responded to our back to the wall. The first half was as poor as we’ve played, except for South Carolina a little bit. We were sluggish, we came out of the gates very, very slow. But our back was against the wall and our guys responded in the second half. I’m very proud of our team for that.”

OSU now begins preparing for Big 12 play, beginning with Kansas State on Saturday.

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