JOHN TRANCHINA, Associated Press
STILLWATER (AP) — Phil Forte scored 31 points and Jawun Evans contributed 23 points, five rebounds and eight steals to lead Oklahoma State to a 102-90 victory over Central Arkansas on Monday.
Jeffrey Carroll provided a spark off the bench once again for Oklahoma State (2-0), scoring 20 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
Forte, a sixth-year senior, fell one point shy of his career high. He finished fourth in the Big 12 in scoring in 2014-15 before he missed all but the first three games of last year with an elbow injury.
“I thought Phil was incredible tonight, at both ends of the court,” said first-year Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood, who earned his second victory. “He was the one guy I thought was very dialed in.”
Jordan Howard scored 28 points for Central Arkansas (0-2), while Mathieu Kamba contributed 19 points — 14 in the second half — and 10 rebounds.
The game was much closer than the score would indicate, despite the fact that Central Arkansas never led at all. When Howard sank a 3 with 11:57 remaining to cap a 12-4 run, the Bears trailed just 63-62, but Oklahoma State responded with 11 consecutive points over the next 2:47 to finally put the game out of reach. Central Arkansas never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
“I’m really proud of the guys and I’m proud of the effort they put forth,” said Central Arkansas coach Russ Pennell. “We competed at a high level and that’s one of the things I’ve been wanting our guys to do. We bothered them with our pressure and when we got behind, we fought back.”
Central Arkansas: Howard continues to prove he can perform at a high level. After scoring 12 points and eight rebounds Friday night in a 79-47 loss to No. 9 Wisconsin, he put forth another impressive outing. Howard shot 7-for-13 from the floor, went 10 of 11 from the free throw line and matched a career-high with three steals.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys under Underwood still have plenty of work left to do. This game was a lot closer than it should have been, as Oklahoma State turned the ball over 17 times, leading to 26 Central Arkansas points. The Cowboys also committed 30 fouls, putting Central Arkansas on the foul line 39 times (of which the Bears converted 28 for 71.8 percent). Starting forward Mitchell Solomon and freshman reserve Cameron McGriff both fouled out by the time there was 7:51 remaining, and two more players finished the game with four fouls.
“I think lack of communication is a big part of it,” Underwood said of all the fouls. “We don’t understand that fouling is a defensive mistake. We’ve obviously got to eliminate that problem.”
Oklahoma State heaved up a lot of 3-point attempts, shooting 10 of 29 from beyond the arc. Forte led the way, going 4-for-10. . For the second straight game, Oklahoma State enjoyed the edge in bench production, outscoring Central Arkansas 36-26 off the bench, after holding a 45-30 advantage over Campbell in its opener. . Oklahoma State recorded 20 assists on 34 baskets after totaling just 10 in the opener.
HE SAID IT
“There’s not enough adjectives to describe Phil, in my book,” Underwood said of Forte. “His value to our team will outlast his days in uniform here. He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever been around. He’s becoming a very vocal leader, he’s everything that a college student-athlete is about. He means the world to me, he means the world to this program and he means the world to our locker room. His play is speaking for itself right now.”
Central Arkansas will next travel to West Point, N.Y., to take on Chattanooga, which has started out 1-1, as part of the first round of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational tournament on Saturday.
Oklahoma State remains at home to take on New Orleans on Saturday. The Privateers opened its season with a 103-67 win over Division III La Grange on Friday.
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