STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Marcus Smart and Phil Forte gave the home fans a memorable final look at a special connection.
The childhood and high school teammates combined for 31 points in the second half to help Oklahoma State pull away for a 77-61 win over Kansas State on Monday night. The sophomore duo, which won two state championships at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas, played their last home game together because Smart will declare early for the NBA Draft.
"It was amazing playing in front of this crowd," Smart said. "I got to play with some wonderful guys. I've been playing with Phil since I was in third grade and I got to play with him throughout my college career."
Forte matched a season-high with 23 points and Smart added 18. Markel Brown added 15 for the Cowboys (20-10, 8-9 Big 12), who followed their victory over then-No. 5 Kansas by winning their fourth-straight. Brown, a senior, also played his final home game at OSU.
Smart was strong in the second half for the third straight game, scoring 16 points after halftime before checking out with 1:32 remaining.
In the first halves of the past three games, Smart has shot a combined 2 for 18 from the field and scored five points. In the second halves of those games, he has made 14 of 21 and scored 51 points.
"I try to make teams play me (early) and open it up for my teammates," he said. "If they focus on me, my teammates lift me up and they pick up my slack. In the second half, it just opens things up for me and I'm able to get in the lane and it opens up shots for me."
The Cowboys endured a seven-game losing skid before the current win streak. Oklahoma State is unbeaten since Smart returned from a three-game suspension for shoving a Texas Tech fan. The win helps the Cowboys in their quest to make the NCAA tournament.
"We need to continue to play well," OSU coach Travis Ford said. "Our motivation is to make the NCAA tournament, so we can't exhale now. I think we're in good shape. If you blindly put any resume against ours, I think we're in pretty good shape."
Thomas Gipson had 10 points and 13 rebounds and Wesley Iwundu added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Kansas State (20-10, 10-7), which had won three of four and was coming off a home win over Iowa State. Marcus Foster, who entered the game as the team leader with 15 points per game, scored nine on 4-for-16 shooting while being hounded by Smart.
Smart's first basket came with just under eight minutes left in the first half.