Oklahoma State basketball: Phil Forte serves as Cowboys' X-Factor

Phil Forte may not be the Cowboys’ best player or best scorer, but he may just be this team’s best indicator for success. Because when Forte’s going good, the Cowboys’ offense is generally going good.
by John Helsley Published: March 19, 2014
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— Analysis of Oklahoma State’s NCAA Tournament chances focuses on the usual suspects.

Marcus Smart. Markel Brown. Le’Bryan Nash.

And they’re obvious suspects, with each averaging at least 14 points per game, with a combined 30 20-point games this season.

Yet they’re not the Cowboys’ only options.

And it’s possible that none of the trio is OSU’s key component as the Cowboys venture outside the familiar confines of the Big 12 Conference and begin a hopeful extended NCAA journey Friday.

If not Smart or Brown or Nash, then who?

Phil Forte.

Forte may not be the Cowboys’ best player or best scorer, but he may just be this team’s best indicator for success.

Because when Forte’s going good, the Cowboys’ offense is generally going good.

“Phil is just as important as I am,” Brown said. “We need Phil to make shots. He’s going to be a big X-Factor for this team in this postseason run.”

Forte’s ability to fire in 3-pointers at a rapid rate — he ranks 12th nationally in 3-point percentage and 24th in 3-pointers made per game (2.97) — stretches defenses and creates operating room for OSU’s Big 3 to slash and drive and work the lane. When Forte gets taken away, or has a rare off night shooting, the offense often slows to a literal standstill.

During OSU’s late-season surge into the NCAA Tournament, a 5-2 stretch with the losses in overtime to Kansas and Iowa State, Forte averaged 15.8 points per game, a bump in his season average of 13.3 and an even more impressive number considering he managed but two in a win over Kansas in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

The sophomore sharpshooter went for 20 points in the Cowboys’ slump-busting win over Texas Tech; 23 at TCU, where he set a career high with eight field goals; and 23 at home against Kansas State, when he fired in six 3-pointers. He’s scored at least 13 points in eight of the last nine games and came within one regrettable missed free throw at Iowa State of making his team’s late close even better at 6-1.

Although he was voted Big 12 Co-Sixth Man of the Year by the Big 12 coaches, he’s been a starter over OSU’s last 10 games, giving the Cowboys their best lineup.

“I just try to go out there and do whatever I can to help our team win,” said Forte, humbly staying away from including himself on OSU’s list of difference makers. “If that means I hit a couple of 3s, so be it. If that means I get a couple of steals, a loose ball… just kind of whatever I can do to help our team win.

“At this time of the year, it’s just about winning and moving forward. I’m just going to go into each and every game seeing what I can do to help our team win.”

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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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