KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Phil Forte had just fouled Nick Franklin shooting — and making — a 3-pointer, setting up a four-point play that would tie Oklahoma State's game with Baylor with 19.1 seconds remaining Thursday night.
And there was nowhere to hide inside the Sprint Center, as No. 14 OSU's one-time, 20-point lead had fully disintegrated.
“It's not a good feeling,” Forte said. “We had a game won, you don't want to be the guy who gave up a four-point play to allow them to tie it. I mean, if that game goes into overtime, they have all the momentum.”
The Cowboys finished the job instead, and fittingly with Forte knocking down two foul shots moments later, sending OSU to a 74-72 win in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
“That was a scary moment, when they got that four-point play,” said Cowboys guard Brian Williams. “But Phil came back and knocked down some big free throws.”
And that wasn't all.
Forte, unfazed by his earlier gaffe, rerouted Pierre Jackson's final 3-point try, which missed off the rim at the buzzer.
“I'm surprised he did that after he just fouled,” said OSU's Markel Brown. “But he jumped up there and made a very good contest.”
OSU, improving to 24-7 and advancing to the tournament semifinals for the first time since 2009, will face No. 11 Kansas State at 9 p.m. Friday. The Wildcats advanced with a 66-49 rout of Texas.
The Cowboys appeared headed for a similar style rout of Baylor in a game that wasn't at all supposed to be easy.
Except it was easy, at least through the first 20 minutes, as the Cowboys bolted to a 20-point first-half lead that was still 18 points, 42-24, at intermission.
And then it wasn't easy any longer.
Jackson got hot, scoring 24 of his game-high 31 points in the second half and 14 of his team's final 21 points, igniting the Bears' rally. Baylor never led, but it carried the action throughout the final period, as the Cowboys got away from the attacking aggressive style that gave them early control.
“I think on both ends, we started playing not to lose,” Williams said. “And you saw, Pierre Jackson was playing to win. He was making huge plays, man.”
Baylor scored on 14 straight possessions, continually cutting into the lead, while OSU's offense was stagnant. The Cowboys made but six field goals in the second half, all by Le'Bryan Nash.
All needed, too.
And nearly not enough.
Because when Forte fouled Franklin, a sense of doom hovered over the Cowboys.
“I saw Pierre Jackson dribbling down and he had an opening,” Forte said, describing the play. “I was just trying to give a little help and obviously I helped too much. I kind of had one of those, ‘Oh shoot' moments. And I was trying to get out to Franklin.
“Obviously, I didn't think it was a foul. But it doesn't matter what I think. That's how basketball goes. You have to move on and forget about it.”
Forte had help moving on.
“You've just got to tell him, ‘Keep your head up,'” said teammate Michael Cobbins.
To Forte's credit, he did.
The foul at the other end was debatable, too, as Forte slashed through lane out of control, before Baylor's Deuce Bello was called for an apparent reaching foul.
“I saw it,” said Bears coach Scott Drew. “I have an obvious opinion, real easy opinion.”
For Forte, it was a shot at redemption.
“The best free-throw shooter on this team,” said Marcus Smart, Forte's teammate since the third grade. “Came through in the clutch.”
Said Forte: “They had the most confidence in me when I was at the free-throw line. When I got fouled, they were happy. They said, ‘Let's go.' They were happy. They already thought we won.
I just had to focus and knock it down.
“When you have teammates like that, it makes my job easy.”