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Oklahoma State basketball: Phil Forte finding himself the focus of opposing defenses

by John Helsley Modified: February 7, 2014 at 3:05 pm •  Published: February 7, 2014
Phil Forte, left, has become a focus of opposing defenses.  Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Phil Forte, left, has become a focus of opposing defenses. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

At one point Monday night, Phil Forte positioned himself near the Cowboys bench for some in-game instruction from coach Travis Ford.

And Ford had to whisper, with Iowa State’s Monte Morris refusing to allow Forte separation.

So it is now for Forte, who in back-to-back games has seen Baylor and Iowa State devote special attention to him on the perimeter. He’s become a focus, even as the Cowboys’ sixth man, although he does average 12.2 points a game and leads the Big 12 in 3-point percentage at 47.3 percent.

“That’s just how it is,” Forte said. “Teams are going to try to prevent me from shooting. We have so many other weapons on this team, so that opens it up for other guys and gives them more space to attack and create things offensively.”

Baylor was the first to increase attention on Forte, after he’d gone off against Oklahoma, making 6-of-6 shots from 3-point range. The Bears chased Forte furiously, even devoting help on the perimeter at times. And it worked, with Forte getting off but four shots all afternoon, all tightly contested. And all misses.

“We stressed that heavily,” Baylor guard Brady Heslip said. “We’d rather anyone else on the team take an open 3 than to rotate off and then have Forte knock down some shots. Once he gets going, he can hit from pretty much anywhere, and that causes too much havoc on the defense.”

Iowa State approached Forte similarly, and it worked to an extent, with Forte making but 1-of-4 shots from the arc. Eventually, he adjusted, driving and finding shots from closer range, where he was able to score. Still, it’s attention he didn’t expect, not at this stage of his career, with scorers like Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown also in place.

“I expected this kind of like Keiton (Page) got his junior and senior year,” Forte said of the former Cowboy sniper. “It happened to me in high school.

“There are other things I can do. I can screen for my teammates, get them open. If they’re not going to help off me there will be more driving lanes for other guys. There are things I can still do to help my other teammates get shots off without me shooting the ball.”

by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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