Cowboys freshman guard Phil Forte found his shooting stroke Saturday, firing in six 3-pointers on his way to 22 points, a career high, in OSU's 78-42 win over Tennessee Tech.
Forte made 7 of 13 shots overall in 26 minutes off the bench.
“It's easy to shoot when you have teammates who really trust you,” said Forte, who was averaging 9.8 points entering the game.
Forte more than filled his role, which is to provide perimeter offense.
“He's capable of having this, night in and night out,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford, “but he's capable of missing shots, just like anybody else. One thing you don't have to worry about is how hard he plays. He's going to know the scouting report. He's going to play good defense.
“Some nights, the shots are going to go in, some they're not. What we tell him is, ‘Shoot the basketball.' The more shots he gets, the better off we are.”
GARDNER GETS GOING, TOO
The transition from junior college has featured a dramatic learning curve for Kirby Gardner, who didn't join the program until August.
Gardner missed OSU's exhibition tour of Spain and the extra practices that trip allowed, putting him in catch-up mode from the start. But he's been steadily coming along, with Saturday revealing his best game yet: 10 points, seven assists and five steals — all career highs.
“I feel like I'm catching up to the team and trying to gain chemistry with them overall,” Gardner said.
Gardner, listed generously at 6-foot-2, even threw in a surprise, going up for a dunk while out front on a fast break.
“I thought about it the whole time,” he said. “That's why I bobbled (the ball). But I knew I was going to get it down.”
COWBOYS EXCEL AT HANDOUTS
OSU matched its season high with 19 assists, led by Gardner's seven.
The Cowboys actually had more than twice as many players with assists (8) than Tennessee Tech had assists (3). The Golden Eagles were held to zero assists in the first half.
“They took us out of everything we wanted to do with their physicality,” said Tech coach Steve Payne.
* With a 10-1 mark before Christmas, OSU has now started 10-1 or better in 8 of the last 12 and 10 of the last 16 seasons.
* The Cowboys allowed just 19 points in the first half, the fourth time in the last five games that the opponent has scored fewer than 20 points before intermission.
* Forte's six 3s against Tennessee Tech provided a team season high. He has had at least two 3s in five-straight games and has made at least one in every game this season.
* With four steals against the Golden Eagles, Marcus Smart now has 30 on the season. That moves him past Keiton Page (29 steals) and into fifth place on the OSU freshman steals list.
* OSU's 11 3-pointers as a team were a season high and the most since the Cowboys had 11 against Kansas last season in Stillwater.
* OSU's defense held an opponent below 50 points for the fifth time this season.