Can Forte Get Win No. 3 Over Jayhawks?

Phil Forte’s career record against Kansas is 2-4, and the Oklahoma State junior could easily have two more victories over the Jayhawks, losing a double overtime thriller as a freshman and then another overtime loss in the 2014 Big 12 Tournament. Compared to their record against Oklahoma (1-5) and Iowa State (1-4) the past three seasons, the Cowboys have played KU as well as anyone in the Big 12.

Will the Cowboys continue that trend in Saturday afternoon’s nationally televised game (ESPN) against the eighth-ranked Jayhawks?

It was just last March when Bill Self’s Jayhawks came to Gallagher-Iba Arena with a No. 5 national ranking and 22-6 record. Not many people gave OSU much of a chance but the Cowboys upset the Jayhawks 72-65, a victory which helped propel them into the NCAA Tournament.

Forte says he and his teammates enjoy it when the Jayhawks make the trip south to Stillwater.

“I think it’s just Kansas, and when you play them that’s all you need to say,” said Forte, who is averaging 13.8 points in his six career games against KU. “They’re used to that, they get everyone’s best shot every single night they play anybody. They have good players all the time so I think as a competitor you just try to raise your game up to the level of Kansas’s caliber.”

Cowboys head coach Travis Ford says, “I don’t think there’s any one reason in particular (we’ve played them good). We’ve had a lot of good games with those guys. I think everybody kinda gets up to play Kansas, it’s a team that has had so much success in this league and they have such incredible tradition. There’s not any one thing we’re doing different than anybody else.”

In addition to Forte, OSU senior Le’Bryan Nash has also been a big part in the Cowboys success against the Jayhawks. In fact, his scoring totals have increased in each of his last six games against KU (from 7 points, to 8, to 10, to 16, to 19, to 21 in OSU’s 67-57 loss last month at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence).

OSU head coach Travis Ford would love to see Nash’s production continue Saturday afternoon when the Cowboys (15-7 overall and 5-5 in the Big 12) host the Jayhawks (19-3/8-1).

“That would be great,” he said. “It’s going to take a whole lot more than Nash; it’s going to take a total team effort.”

In a year when KU’s streak of 10 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles was supposed to be in jeopardy, the Jayhawks are sitting atop the conference standings with a two-game lead over Iowa State and West Virginia.

Forte and Ford both say there’s a reason the Jayhawks are poised to win their 11th consecutive Big 12 title under Self.

“Kansas is Kansas and at the end of the day they always find a way to win,” Forte said. “They always do a great job of both getting great players and they have a great coaching staff. It’s no surprise to me they are where they are right now. We’ll have our hands full tomorrow afternoon.

“They can shoot the ball very well. They’re very deep at the guard position, they can attack you in so many ways. I think this is one of the more versatile years for them at the guard position since I’ve been here. They can drive it, they can shoot the three really well and then if they need to they know they can go inside.”

Ford agrees with the OSU junior, whose 17.1 scoring average is second in the Big 12.

“They are younger and it’s a little bit different team maybe (than in past years), but I don’t know about less talent. They have all the talent,” said the Cowboys coach. “I know he’s done an incredible job with them. Right now they’re playing as well as anybody in the country, and definitely a team they could make a Final Four.

“They have a lot of good pieces … maybe not the typical team they’ve had in the last four or five years where they’ve got all the shot blockers inside and low post guys scoring all the time, but they’ve still got guys that can do it, but they are playing a little bit differently at times.”

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