Cowboys freshman Phil Forte is becoming a regular request for post-game press conferences.
And a provider of late-game drama.
Forte, after a quiet opening 43 minutes Thursday, scored six of Oklahoma State's eight points in overtime to spark a surge to a 69-65 win over Akron in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
With OSU trailing 65-61 and standing scoreless more than three minutes into the extra period, Forte drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:29 to play, then sank three free throws after being fouled while shooting a 3 on the Cowboys' next trip.
The foul shots put OSU up 67-65, before Marcus Smart added two more free throws in the closing seconds.
The Cowboys, 2-0, advance to play Tennessee in one of Friday's semifinal matchups. The Volunteers beat UNC-Asheville 75-68. Tip time is 9:30 a.m.
Before the final two minutes of overtime, Forte had managed but two points on 1-of-5 shooting.
“I knew Phil Forte was going to make a shot,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “At some point, he was going to make a shot.”
In OSU's season-opening 73-65 win over UC Davis, Forte scored 11 of his 13 points in the final 10 1/2 minutes, when he drilled three 3-pointers, including one to send the Cowboys in front. He had five 3s and 19 points in OSU's exhibition win.
This time, despite the early struggles, Forte was ready to take the big shot, especially with Smart, his longtime teammate, leading the break.
“Playing with Marcus since the third grade, I knew it was coming to me,” said Forte, who came to OSU with Smart from Flower Mound Marcus High School in Texas. “We've run that play so many times before, where we're in transition, he's in the middle, I'm on the wing and he does a look and just pitches it to me.
“So in my mind, I already knew it was coming my way. I just had to step up and knock it down.”
It was a ragged game for both teams, with each shooting worse than 40 percent from the floor: OSU 37.5; Akron 30.0.
It may prove to be a costly game for the Cowboys, who added Jéan-Paul Olukemi to an expanding injured list. Olukemi hurt his knee in the first half and did not return.
OSU got a combined 51 points from three players, with Le'Bryan Nash scoring 20, Markel Brown 15 and Smart 14.
Still, the Cowboys needed the six late from Forte, after losing a 10-point second half lead, then finding themselves down in the overtime.
“I can't begin to describe how proud I am of our basketball team,” Ford said. “For how much adversity we faced – injuries again, foul trouble – we figured out how to win against a very good basketball team when odds didn't look our way.
“We stuck with our execution. We got the ball where we needed to get it. We made big defensive stops. As I told our team, I'm so proud of them.”