Phil Forte and Mitchell Solomon needed Thursday afternoon's game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Oklahoma State teammates had been struggling in recent weeks and were looking for breakout performances before beginning Big 12 play on Dec. 30.
Forte broke out of one of the worst shooting slumps of his college playing career to score a team-high 19 points while making five three-pointers – the most he's hit in a game since making six against Kansas three years ago as a sophomore – in helping the Cowboys to a 92-70 victory over the Islanders before a crowd of 8,342 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Cowboys improve to 10-2 with the victory and now begin preparing for the opening of Big 12 play against West Virginia on Dec. 30.
Forte, the fifth-year senior who will become the most prolific three-pointer shooter in school history with 28 more made shots, was shooting only 20.1 percent from the field (13 of 62) and had made only 10 of his last 41 three-pointers (24.4 percent) in the last seven games. But he was 5-of-10 from behind the three-point line on Thursday afternoon to break out of the scoring slump.
"I wouldn't trade my teammates or coaches for anyone in the country. They are always telling me to keep shooting, whether shots are falling or not," Forte said. "The coaches have always been supportive of me. When I'm out there on the court, it's more for them. I want to make the shots for them because they are putting me in the right positions.
"Seeing them get excited when I hit a shot, I want to make that for them. I feel like if I don't, I let them down. That's the main thing, I just want to be able to make shots for them because they do a great job of trying to find me and get me open."
In addition, the 6-9 Solomon was averaging just 3.9 points and 3.7 rebounds this season for the Cowboys. But in just 22 minutes of play against the Islanders, the junior from Bixby had eight points and a career-high 14 rebounds. His nine offensive boards were just one off the school record, and the 14 rebounds tied for the fourth-most by an OSU player off the bench, and are the most by a Cowboy since Marshall Moses had 15 boards against Rhode Island in 2010.
"I thought this was a good ball team," OSU head coach Brad Underwood said. "In the first half, we came out, had great energy, phenomenal tempo and pace. I loved us getting in transition, and I thought we were really active. In the second half we were a little flat. We've got to try to avoid that.
"I thought the first half was maybe as good a performance by a guy who had two points than I've seen in a long, long time, and that was Mitchell Solomon. I can't say enough positive things about 11 rebounds in one half, and six of them on the offensive end. He was phenomenal."
Joining Forte in double figures for the Cowboys were Jeffrey Carroll (13 points), Lindy Waters (12), Brandon Averette (11) and Thomas Dziagwa (11).
Underwood was pleased with the crowd of more than 8,300.
"First thing: 8.342 (attendance). Wow. I'm thankful," he said. "That's awesome. Noon tip during the week, Christmas break. I've said a million times that we have great fans. It was great to see today. I'm very thankful for that."
The Cowboys will take a few days off to celebrate Christmas with their families and then return to Stillwater on Dec. 26 to begin preparing for the Big 12 opener against West Virginia on Dec. 30.
"We'll let the guys go now. A lot of them are probably out the door already. They're heading home," Underwood said. "It's a great time of year, and I want our players to understand how important family is and Christmas. The break is good. I'm a big believer in that.
"We'll come back on the 26th, have a lift, have a run. We'll try to run Christmas out of them, and then we will jump into two-a-days. We've been doing two-a-days. It's a great time of year, and it's a great time to get better. We know what we're going to see in West Virginia, and we've got to get some work in at that and some other things."