Phil Forte and Markel Brown combined for nine 3-pointers as each scored 22 points to lead the Cowboys to their third win to open the season. Forte was 6-of-7 on 3-pointers (tying his career high for makes in a game) while Brown made 3-of-7 from behind the arc.
But the Cowboys looked like a team that was playing its third game in eight days. They only led 25-22 with seven minutes left in the first half before Brown and Forte led the Cowboys on a 13-2 run. Forte hit two 3-pointers and Brown added a trey and a 15-footer to make it 38-24.
OSU finally took control of the game in the second half with a 34-13 run, but it was apparent that the Cowboys were not playing their best basketball.
“I wasn’t happy with the overall defensive numbers for the night. It was an average performance except for a five- or seven-minute span when we went on a 34-to-whatever run,” OSU head coach Travis Ford said. “We really just gained momentum during that stretch, and played great basketball during that stretch, and that was the only difference in the game. I’m amazed we scored 97 points with the way we shot free throws (27 of 41) but I’m glad we got the win.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff actually led 12-11 midway through the first half (the first time in the first three games that the Cowboys had trailed), and the Lions were doing their best to keep it close early in the second half. OSU led 56-40 before taking control over the next seven minutes, scoring 19 consecutive points at one point, to take control.
Joining Brown and Forte in double figures was Marcus Smart, who scored 16 points thanks to going 10-of-14 from the free-throw line. However, the preseason All-American was just 3-of-9 shooting and had a game-high five turnovers. Le’Bryan Nash contributed 9 points and 8 rebounds.
The Cowboys can now start looking ahead to Memphis. The Tigers, who were 31-5 a year ago, opened the season with a 95-69 victory over Austin Peay on Thursday night.
“When they come out with the schedule this is the game that everyone sees, us included. This was kind of a trap game, a game we had to get past. Now that Memphis is next all of our attention and focus goes toward them,” said Forte, who only missed one shot Friday night. He was 6-of-7 from the field (all 3-pointers) and was perfect on his four free throws.
Brown admitted after the game that it has been difficult the last few weeks to ignore looking ahead to Tuesday night’s showdown with the Tigers.
“It’s hard to ignore. You see Memphis on the schedule, and know that they’re a top 13 team in the country, (and we’re) playing at home. It’s hard to ignore,” said the OSU senior.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for. Hopefully we can get a packed house. It’s here now, so we’re going to go prepare for them how we prepare for the last three teams we’ve played. It should be a fun one.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday for the nationally televised showdown (ESPN).
"More than ever there have been a lot of great early college basketball games ... and I think you can add this one to the list as an early good test for both teams," Ford said.