“Growing up in that state and not really getting recruited by them is always something,” said Forte, who improved his career record to 4-1 against the Longhorns, “but they’re a great basketball program with a lot of tradition. They’re always one of the top programs year in and year out, so they get everybody’s best shot.”
The Cowboys improve to 12-3 overall and 2-1 in Big 12 play, while Texas falls to 12-2 and 1-2.
“It was a little chippy out there but when we’re undersized like that we just have to try to scratch and claw and do whatever we can because they’re a lot bigger and a lot taller,” Forte said of the Cowboys, who not only outscored Texas 41-30 in the second half but also out-rebounded the bigger, taller Longhorns 21-13.
“If they got a rebound we were trying to strip the ball away from them.We knew coming into this game we were going to have to play hard and play aggressive, and scrap and claw to find a way to win, and that’s what we did,” added Forte, who contributed four rebounds to his team’s effort./
The Cowboys were tied 28-28 at halftime after allowing Texas 12 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points. But the second half was a different story.
Nash scored the first eight points of the second half for the Cowboys but they still trailed 39-36 after Myles Turner of Texas scored at the 16:07 mark. But the Cowboys turned up the defensive pressure and went on a 12-3 run to take a 48-42 lead on a Hickey three-pointer with 10:48 left to play.
Texas pulled within three on Isaiah Taylor’s fast break layup with a little more than six minutes left to play, but that’s a close as the Longhorns would get.
Hickey’s acrobatic tip-in of his own miss the next time down the floor pushed the lead back to five, and then the Cowboys point guard came up with a big assist, finding Tavarius Shine open in the corner for a three-pointer. Forte followed up with his fourth and final trey of the game to give the Cowboys a 61-53 lead with 3:28 on the clock.
“It was a battle,” OSU head coach Travis Ford said. “I think both teams played really, really hard. There were a lot of big shots in this game from both sides, a lot of tough shots made in this game. It was a very high intensity game with both teams really needing a win. It was a big-time college basketball game. It was a total team effort. I thought Anthony Hickey was terrific.”
The play of the 5-11 transfer from LSU impressed everyone, including Texas head coach Rick Barnes.
“I thought their guards did a really outstanding job of rebounding the ball. Hickey’s rebounding was huge,” Barnes said.
Hickey started 85 games at LSU before transferring to OSU for this season.
“I didn’t know what I was getting,” Ford said. “What I was very excited about getting was a kid who had been a starter for three years in the SEC. At least there were not going to be any surprises to him. He’s been in big games.
“As he goes, our team goes. I believe that. He’s that important to our team,” he said of Hickey, who was averaging 9.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists entering Saturday’s game. “Now can he handle that pressure? Is it too much for you? No, he kinda likes it. He’s obviously a very important piece, but I really didn’t exactly know how he would fit in, but I was excited to have him.”
Nash is another important piece for the Cowboys. He tied Forte for game-high scoring honors but it was his start to the second half – scoring the team’s first eight points on four consecutive trips down the floor – to keep it close.
Michael Cobbins then converted a traditional three-point play after grabbing an offensive rebound, Forte nailed a pair of three-pointers (including one from about 30 feet) and Hickey drained a trey as OSU took control of the game.
The Cowboys now go on the road for games against No. 12 Kansas (Tuesday night) and No. 16 Oklahoma (next Saturday) before returning to Gallagher-Iba Arena to face Texas Tech on Jan. 21.