Phil Forte came off the bench to score a career-high 26 points to lead Oklahoma State to an 80-66 victory over West Virginia Saturday afternoon at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.
Forte was 7 of 12 from the floor, including 6 of 11 from 3, and fellow guard Markel Brown added 24 points and five assists to help the Cowboys improve to 13-5, 3-3.
Oklahoma State overcame a slow start by getting hot from 3, going 10 of 19 from behind the arc, and using a 2-3 zone defense that completely stymied West Virginia.
“The frustrating thing is I can’t run a set because they don’t know what they’re doing,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “It’s mind boggling because we do it and we do it and we do it and they know what they’re doing in practice and all of a sudden the game comes and they lose everything.”
The Mountaineers (9-10, 2-4) were leading by 13 when Deniz Kilicli’s basket gave them a 24-11 advantage with 5:29 left in the first half. But that's when Oklahoma State came to life. The Cowboys used 16-3 run over the remaining five minutes of the first half to take a 30-27 lead into the locker room at the break.
The Mountaineers could only muster one basket in their final 11 possessions of the half, that coming on an Eron Harris 3, and of the other 10 possessions five resulted in missed shots and five ended with turnovers.
Early in the second half, a Kilicli jumper pulled West Virginia to within four, 40-36, and the Mountaineers had the ball with a chance to cut it to two before Kilicli was called for an offensive foul while trying to establish position. Forte then came down and busted a 3 from the corner, and in a blink of an eye, Oklahoma State was leading by 15.
The Cowboys eventually got it to 19, 70-51, on a pair of Mike Cobbins free throws with 5:41 to go.
“They scored on 13 of their first 15 possessions – you’re not going to win,” said Huggins. “We just don’t guard.”
Harris once again was West Virginia’s most effective offensive player, scoring a team-high 17 on 6 of 10 shooting. In the freshman’s last four games he has scored 17 at Iowa State, 10 at Purdue, a season-high 19 against TCU and now 17 today to boost his season average to 7.7 points per game.
“Eron Harris was really our only guy who made shots,” said Huggins. “Our problem is we can make one, but I don’t know if we can make two in a row. Their guy (Forte) may make seven in a row.”
Kilicli followed up an 11-point night Wednesday against TCU with 12 today before fouling out with seven minutes left. It was Deniz’s seventh double-digit scoring performance of the season. Aaric Murray added 11 points and 10 rebounds coming off the bench for WVU.
Excluding Harris, West Virginia’s other four regular guards were a combined 8 of 27 from the floor.
“We can’t make shots,” said Huggins. “It has become painfully obvious.”
Oklahoma State out-rebounded West Virginia 34-28 and also out-scored the Mountaineers 20-11 at the line. This was the Mountaineers’ second straight double-digit loss on the road; Purdue blew out West Virginia 79-52 last Saturday afternoon in West Lafayette, Ind.
"We were very hesitant early in the game," said Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford. "We didn't handle the pressure early and we got caught chasing them on defense rather than guarding them. Once we started adjusting to their pressure, we were able to score a few more points. Then we jumped into a zone, and that helped us on both ends of the court. There were some long rebounds, and we were able to convert those into some open-court fast breaks to open the game up a little bit. We just got off to a slow start."
The Mountaineers have just one day of prep before facing third-ranked Kansas in an ESPN Big Monday game at the Coliseum that will tip off at 9 p.m. That game has been deemed "Stripe the Coliseum Day."