STILLWATER — Travis Ford insisted that Oklahoma State's stiff 3-point shooting through two exhibition games was no concern, even with perimeter percentage ranking among the team's “To Do List” priorities.
Friday night, Ford found confirmation, as his team got real when the games turned real.
In the season opener before an estimated 6,000 fans at Gallagher-Iba Arena, the No. 8-ranked Cowboys rolled past Mississippi Valley State, 117-62, doing anything and everything well — including hitting their 3s.
Phil Forte fired in four shots from the arc, and the Cowboys connected on 12 of 21 overall, contributing to good feelings all the way around.
Forte finished with a game-high 22 points, while Le'Bryan Nash added 21 — two of five OSU players in double-figure scoring. Nash also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.
“I guess we were just saving it for the game that actually mattered,” said Forte, who had made only 4 of 13 tries from the arc against Campbellsville and Emporia State. “No, that's not what we worry about. We all know we can shoot. We work on it every day.
“Sometimes shots aren't going to fall. And some nights they will fall.”
In the exhibition wins, the Cowboys made just 8 of 39 shots from 3-point territory, including a 2-for-18 performance the last time out against Emporia State.
Still, Ford shrugged off any worries, with proof of improved shooting, he said, more than evident in practices.
Now, there's game proof.
“I've never been a coach who gets overly concerned about that,” Ford said. “This basketball team, we've shown in practice that on a pretty consistent basis we've shot the ball well. You never know. I'm more about the things you can control. You can't control whether the ball goes in or not.
“You've got every intention. And sometimes it's a reflection of maybe not being focused, not being locked in. We made a few shots tonight.”
OSU made more 3s against the Delta Devils than it did in the two exhibitions combined. Beyond Forte, four other Cowboys made good from the arc. Markel Brown added three, Leyton Hammonds had two and Marcus Smart and Stevie Clark each made one.
It wasn't just the 3-balls going down, OSU's 117 points were the program's most against a Division foe since getting 122 in a win over Northwestern State (La.) in 2009, which is also the last time the Cowboys reached 100.
The 55-point romp ties for the 10th-best margin of victory in school history.
“I was proud of our effort, our focus,” Ford said. “I thought we showed some maturity out there, as far as when we got up, we kept executing, which was good to see. We kept challenging our guys at halftime and in timeouts to give them different goals and different things to work on and achieve.
“And I thought we did that. I thought we executed pretty well, even with the lead. We did what we were supposed to do tonight. That's probably the biggest positive.”
After two easy exhibitions over lower-division squads, the Cowboys said they were ready to get the regular season started. And it showed.
“It's a real game, so everybody was excited,” Nash said. “It's the start to the Final Four to us — that's what we say — it's the road to the Final Four.”