Cowboys, Forte Drill Red Raider

STILLWATER, Okla. – Phil Forte probably wishes every game was against Texas Tech. The Oklahoma State junior has scored 14 or more points in every game he’s played against the Red Raiders, and the Cowboys improved to 5-1 against Tech during his career with Wednesday night’s 63-43 victory at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

In six career games against Tech, Forte is averaging 16.2 points per game while shooting 51.1 percent from three-point range (23 of 45 after going 5 of 7 from behind the arc in the Cowboys win on Wednesday night).

OSU improves to 13-5 overall and 3-3 in the Big 12, while Texas Tech is now 10-9 and 0-6 in conference play.

It was the play of the Cowboys guards – Forte, Jeff Newberry and Anthony Hickey – who helped turn a 30-25 halftime lead into a blowout victory in the second half. Forte’s three-pointer early in the second half gave his team a 38-29 lead, and then his steal and assist led to Le’Bryan Nash’s conventional three-point play. A few possessions later he took a pass from Newberry and got the shooter’s bounce on another three-pointer, and suddenly the Cowboys were up 44-33.

Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith was impressed with what he saw from Forte, who is shooting 53.2 percent (41 of 77) from the field and 50.0 percent from three-point range (19 of 38) in his last seven games.

“He plays hard and he plays smart,” Smith said. “Those are two ingredients for a good player. That’s what you’re looking for in every player. Plus, he’s a gritty, tough kid. He knows how to leverage, he knows how to trick you into shot faking you. And he’s a better athlete than you think too. He’s got speed and he’s athletic, and he shoots the ball deep.”

But it wasn’t just a one-man show for the Cowboys.

Newberry contributed 13 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in 28 minutes. Hickey only scored one point but tied a career-high with eight assists while adding five rebounds.

"I thought Jeff Newberry did a great job,” Cowboys head coach Travis Ford said. “I liked his stat line tonight. He shot the ball well, had six rebounds and three assists. He did some really good things and it was good to see him get going here. We really like where Jeff Newberry is at. I know he's been struggling a little bit, but he's still a young basketball player, as far as playing at this level is concerned. He's getting some valuable experience right now.”

Ford also complimented Nash and Michael Cobbins. Nash went to the bench with 13 minutes left in the first half after picking up his second foul and didn’t play again until after halftime but still managed to score 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Cobbins finished with 7 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks.

“(Nash) was very good,” Ford said. “We finally got them out of the zone in the second half because (Nash) was doing a lot of good things in the middle of it. That's what we're trying to stress, getting the ball in the middle and playing inside to out. He had a good second half for us.”

The Cowboys defense was outstanding in the second half, limiting the Red Raiders to 6 of 28 shooting (21.4 percent). During one stretch of nearly 12 minutes – from Tech’s Randy Onwuasor’s basket at the 17:47 mark to Keenan Evans two-pointer with 5:55 remaining in the game – the Red Raiders went without scoring a field goal as the Cowboys stretched their lead from six points to 56-38.

"We did play much better in the second half. We need to start playing two halves and playing better,” Ford said. “In the first half, second shots killed us as bad as any game we've played this year. What we were doing offensively was pretty good. Our first line of defense was very good. You had a man come off the bench and get 12 points, half the other team's points. Most of those came in off second shots. I thought we did a much better job of holding them down and getting stops that led to us getting out in transition.”

OSU plays next at 11 a.m. Saturday against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. The Cowboys beat the Wildcats 61-47 on Jan. 3 inside Gallagher-Iba Arena in the Big 12 opener for both teams.

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