Forte helps Oklahoma State top No. 7 West Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Phil Forte stepped up again at a key moment for Oklahoma State.
Forte scored all 13 of his points in the second half to lead the Cowboys to an 82-75 victory over No. 7 West Virginia.
Oklahoma State (15-8, 4-6 Big 12) has the league’s longest winning streak at five after No. 2 Baylor and No. 3 Kansas both lost on Saturday.
“Phil’s our leader,” Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood said. “He’d been on a roll and been playing extremely well and then he does exactly what a senior does. It’s because of his leadership, a big part of the reason we’re turning this thing around.”
In a 68-66 win over Oklahoma on Monday, Forte hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 11 seconds to play.
Against the Mountaineers, Forte scored nine points over the final 5 minutes and Oklahoma State shot 62.5 percent (25 of 40) from the floor for the game.
West Virginia (18-5, 6-4) had a chance to move into a second-place tie with Baylor, but couldn’t match the production of Forte and Jawun Evans down the stretch.
Evans’ driving layup put Oklahoma State ahead to stay at 71-69 with 4:17 left, and Lindy Waters’ 3-pointer and four free throws by Evans helped the Cowboys to a 78-74 lead.
Forte, a 94 percent free-throw shooter, sealed the win by making all four of his tries from the line in the final minute.
“We knew not to foul him,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We knew not to leave him open. And we did both.”
Jeffrey Carroll led the Cowboys with 20 points, but he had only three after halftime. Evans finished with 18.
Redshirt freshman Lamont West scored a season-high 21 points for West Virginia, and Tarik Phillip had 15.
Oklahoma State’s defense allowed few inside scoring chances early on, and that was just fine with West, who loitered around the perimeter and made five 3-pointers in the first half.
In turn, forward Esa Ahmad, West Virginia’s leading scorer who usually thrives in the lane, didn’t have a shot attempt until the second half, played just 14 minutes and went scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys finally beat a team in the AP poll after losing their previous four tries this season. The win could help Oklahoma State earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers have double-digit home wins over Baylor and Kansas and were coming off another solid performance in an 85-72 victory at Iowa State on Tuesday. But the loss to the Cowboys was another example of their struggles against the league’s lower-tier teams.
“I just feel like we took them lightly,” West said.
West Virginia fell to 3-4 against teams in fifth place or worse in the league.
West Virginia was held to a season-low 16 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end.
“I can’t remember getting beat that bad on the glass,” Huggins said.
BETTER ON D
Oklahoma State has improved its defense considerably, allowing 70 points per game during the winning streak compared to 86 points in the previous six games. West Virginia, averaging nearly 88 points per game, had two field goals in the final 4 minutes.
“You make a change and hope it helps and that your guys can gain some confidence,” Underwood said. “But I think it speaks tremendous volumes to the character of our locker room and the guys in it and who they are as people and who they are as teammates.”
Oklahoma State hosts Baylor on Wednesday. The Bears beat the Cowboys 61-57 on Jan. 7 in Waco, Texas.
West Virginia plays at Oklahoma on Wednesday. The Mountaineers lost to the Sooners 89-87 in overtime on Jan. 18 in Morgantown.