Mike Anderson is wondering how Oklahoma State has lost any games this season after watching Saturday’s display by the Cowboys against his Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Cowboys scored the game’s first nine points and rolled to an easy 99-71 victory over the Razorbacks inside a sold-out Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Cowboys extended their winning streak to three games to mprove to 13-8 this season, while Arkansas falls to 16-5. The Razorbacks were No. 27 in the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) entering Saturday’s game.
But it was Oklahoma State that played like it was one of the nation’s top teams as the Cowboys were dominant from the opening tip. Five different Cowboys scored in double figures, including Jeff Carroll (20 points and seven rebounds) and Phil Forte (18 points and six assists).
Forte kept the 13,611 fans in their seats until the final few minutes even though the outcome was already determined. The fifth-year senior from Flower Mound, Texas became the school’s career 3-point leader with his fourth 3-pointer of the game with 5:17 remaining.
Forte’s fourth trey of the game was the 300th of his playing career. He entered the game needing three 3-pointers to tie former Cowboy Keiton Page, who made 299 from 2009-12 while playing for the Cowboys.
“Congratulations to Phil. That’s impressive,” Cowboys head coach Brad Underwood said. “Anytime somebody becomes the best in something, especially in such a storied and great program like this one, I’m happy for him. He deserved it. I know how hard he’s worked, and he’s elite when I talk about his ability to shoot the basketball. I couldn’t be happier.”
Forte wasn’t the only Cowboy who drew the head coach’s praise. Carroll led the Cowboys with 20 points, but Jawun Evans (16 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds), Davon Dillard (10 points) and Leyton Hammonds (10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and 5 rebounds) also made major contributions.
“I thought defensively we were really dialed in,” Underwood said. “We were really active in the first half. We did a great job on the glass. But five guys in double figures, 24 assists on 33 baskets, 17 offensive rebounds and they had 18 defensive. I thought our effort was very good and I’m very pleased with that.
“Jawun had 16 points, (and) I thought he was incredible today. In his floor game, eight assists and seven rebounds … but it was the passes up the floor, it was the opportunity to drive. He got us off to such an incredible start. My goodness, was he good today, and it was more than just scoring baskets. I think we were 1.4 points per possession, and that’s an unbelievable number for those of you into analytics.
“Jawun is the straw that stirs the drink, and he got us off to such a good start and that was a big part of our transition game.”
The Cowboys couldn’t have played much better than they did in the first half and took a 59-33 at halftime. Four players were already in double figures and the Cowboys were shooting 54.3 percent from the field and had already gone to the free-throw line 19 times (making 16). They had 15 assists on their 19 field goals, and had out-rebounded the Razorbacks 24-12.
“I like us at the free-throw line and I like us shooting layups,” said Underwood of his team, which finished 24-of-29 from the line and scored 40 points in the paint.
OSU celebrated the lives of the 10 members of the Cowboys basketball program who lost their lives 16 years ago in a plane crash while returning from a game in Colorado. It was the first time for Underwood to witness the coming together of the OSU family on the anniversary of the plane crash.
“Today was special. This is why I came here,” he said. “The full arena and the atmosphere. I can’t say thank you enough to our fans, for coming out and believing in us. This place is special, it’s electric. I believe that from the bottom of my heart.
“The Remember the 10 Day is special. It’s always a part of our program, and to have so many of those families here was so meaningful. Oklahoma State’s elite, and today it was elite.”
The Cowboys will return to Big 12 play Monday night against Bedlam rival Oklahoma in Norman. Tip for the nationally televised game (ESPN) is 8 p.m. (Central time).