Cowboys roll to lopsided win
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Sunday, December 23, 2012
12/23/12 at 6:38 AM
STILLWATER - After the minutes slowly ticked off the Gallagher-Iba Arena clock Saturday afternoon, Oklahoma State's focus immediately shifted toward a matchup with No. 14 Gonzaga.
A lopsided 78-42 win against Tennessee Tech was the final tuneup before one of the biggest nonconference home games in school history.
"Obviously, we know it's a big game," OSU guard Phil Forte said. " ... They're one of the top programs in the nation. We have them coming into our place on New Year's Eve, and we've got our work cut out for us."
Fortunately for the 24th-ranked Cowboys, they are coming off one of their most complete games heading into the nonconference finale.
Intensity on defense in the opening minutes helped set the tone, and a 12-0 run that included eight straight points from Forte gave OSU a 26-6 cushion midway through the first half.
Tennessee Tech (6-6) was out of sorts from the get-go and didn't have an assist in the first half.
"We had a hard time dealing with their size, and (OSU point guard) Marcus Smart just dominates the game," coach Steve Payne said. "They took us out of everything we want to do with their physicality."
Early in the second half, the advantage stretched to 25 points when Markel Brown took a Smart lob, did a reverse-360 and slammed it home with his left hand.
Forte hit four of his six 3-pointers after halftime and sparked a 10-2 run in the closing minutes. He finished with a career-high 22 points.
"Some nights (Forte's shots) are going to go in; some nights they're not," coach Travis Ford said. "What we tell him is shoot the basketball. The more shots he gets, the better off we are."
Kirby Gardner, a juco-transfer guard, recorded career-highs in points (10), assists (seven) and steals (five).
"I feel like I'm catching up to the team," he said. "I'm trying to gain chemistry with them as the days go by."
The Golden Eagles wound up with three assists, but no Tennessee Tech player had more than one. The Cowboys had seven players with at least one assist and tied a season-high with 19.
"From beginning to end, I was just really pleased," Ford said. "Everybody got to play and showed some unselfishness. We made some shots and our offense was better than it's been."
For the fifth time this season, OSU held an opponent below 50 points. The 38-point victory is the largest since defeating Northwestern State 82-36 on Dec. 31, 2007.
Since stumbling at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1, the Cowboys (10-1) have won five straight, but the wins haven't always come as easily as Saturday's.
"It's been good because we've played well, but we've also had stretches where we can learn," Ford said. "Sometimes you learn more when you don't do well."
Ford was more than ready to look ahead to the looming battle with Gonzaga after weeks of trying to get the team's focus off it.
"Everybody knows Gonzaga has incredible tradition, but from what I understand this is their best team that they've probably ever had," Ford said. " ... There'll be two top-25 teams playing in here, and it's been a while since that's happened nonconference-wise.
"Hopefully we'll get some fan support. We're going to need it."
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte shoots over Tennessee Tech forward Dennis Ogbe during OSU's 78-42 win Saturday in Stillwater. BRODY SCHMIDT / Associated Press