Oklahoma State’s Two-Man Punch May Not Be Punch Enough

Oklahoma State has somewhat quietly put together a 12-4 record this season, despite being projected to finish in the lower third of the conference standings in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll.

Fueling the Cowboys’ success on the hardwood this season is the two-man scoring force of senior forward Le’Bryan Nash and junior shooting guard Phil Forte. The tandem accounts for over half of Oklahoma State’s team average of 70 points a game.

Jan 10, 2015; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Phil Forte III (13) goes to the basket against the Texas Longhorns during the second half at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Oklahoma State won 69-58. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

At one and two among Big 12 scoring leaders, Nash and Forte provide the Cowboys with a potent one-two punch that poses a scoring threat on every offensive possession. And they log a lot of minutes on the floor, both averaging better than 30 minutes a game.

Nash and Forte both are averaging just over 17 points a game, and it’s not just their scoring production that makes them so dangerous, it’s how efficient they are when the put up shots. Nash is seventh in the conference in field-goal efficiency, averaging 47 percent. And Forte is right there also, hitting 46 percent of his shots and 41 percent behind the three-point line, which is where many of his shot attempts originate.

Against Kansas on Tuesday night, Nash scored a game-high 21 points, the sixth time this season and 26th in his Oklahoma State career that he has reached the 20-point level in a game.

Nash, incidentally, learned this week that he is one of three players from the Big 12 (Georges Niang of Iowa State and West Virginia’s Juwan Staten) named to the Sporting News‘ midseason All-America third team.

Forte chipped in 18, the second highest point total in Tuesday night’s game, but the 39-point output by the Cowboy pair wasn’t enough to pull the upset at KU’s’ Allen Fieldhouse, as the Jayhawks prevailed by ten, 67-57.

His 18 points against Kansas was the fewest by Forte in his previous four games, which all exceed 20 points.

Nash was on the court for 38 of the 40 minutes against Kansas, and Forte sat out a total of five minutes the entire game.

As good as these two guys are, you can’t expect them to contribute as much as they are currently and give you as much playing time as they’ve been averaging over a long college basketball season. Not with the same one-two consistency that they have been delivering every time out to this point in the season.

For Oklahoma State to continue winning, it is going to take more than Nash and Forte to carry the load. Others on the team are going to have to step up their production and show that the Cowboys are more than a two-man team.

For example, OSU got only three points from its bench players against Kansas and that was from one individual, Tyree Griffin. All but Griffin’s three points came from the Cowboys’ five starters.

Most teams in the Big 12 would love to go to battle with a double force like Nash and Forte. The problem is, in this conference this season, that just isn’t enough.