STILLWATER — For much of Oklahoma State’s season opener against UC Davis Friday night, it looked and felt a lot like last season, which memory serves as not very good at all for the Cowboys.
Battered on the boards.
At least there was one familiar positive: the short guy drilling 3-pointers.
Freshman Phil Forte, making like the graduated Keiton Page, scored 11 of his 13 points in the final 10 1/2 minutes, helping OSU squeeze past UC Davis, 73-65, before an estimated crowd of 5,000 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Aggies, 5-26 a year ago, led at one point in the second half and threatened to stunt the optimism accompanying the Cowboys into this season.
But OSU gathered itself, with Forte firing in big shots at key moments — a 3 that sent OSU in front 53-51 after the Aggies led 51-48, and two more 3s down the stretch to keep UC Davis’ upset hopes at bay.
“That’s what I came here to do, make shots,” Forte said. “That’s kind of my role on the team. Everyone has their own role.”
Roles were sketchy Friday night, with an unorthodox opponent running an offense geared around running shooters off screens on the perimeter. That style rendered OSU’s only healthy big men — Philip Jurick and Marek Soucek — all but useless on the defensive end. Jurick played but three minutes and Soucek never checked in, leaving Le’Bryan Nash and Jéan-Paul Olukemi to play out of position at center, while freshman guard Marcus Smart spent a bulk of his playing time at the four spot.
This was a game where injured starters Brian Williams and Michael Cobbins were clearly missed.
“I’m glad we won, this game probably could have gone either way,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “But I saw this coming all week. We’re so out of sync offensively right now. It was a product of us playing lineups tonight we haven’t even practiced.