Here is Kansas’ dilemma: The Oklahoma State Cowboys feature the two leading scorers in the Big 12, so it’s pretty clear which players must be contained during Tuesday night’s game at Allen Fieldhouse.
Actually stopping those players is where it becomes difficult.
Oklahoma State junior guard Phil Forte leads the Big 12 in scoring with 17.7 points per game, while senior forward Le’Bryan Nash is just a fraction behind at 17.6 points per game. The two players account for nearly half of Oklahoma State’s 71.7 points per game.
“We won’t be the only team that’s played them that’s said: ‘You know what? We should try to stop Forte and Nash.’” Kansas coach Bill Self said on Monday. “There’s a couple of other teams that have thought that, too, and haven’t been successful. The big thing is: Make sure you limit their good touches, but not at the expense of letting the other guys have big days.
“I’m OK with letting them get their averages or even more, if it means we shut down everybody else.”
Both Nash and Forte were recruited by Kansas, and Forte even had Jayhawk connections. His father, Phil Forte Sr., played football at Kansas, and Phil Jr., a native of Flower Mound, Texas, grew up a Kansas fan, traveling to NCAA Tournament games and taking in games at Allen Fieldhouse.
Self offered the younger Forte a scholarship, but he decided to accompany his high school teammate — guard Marcus Smart — to Oklahoma State. Smart became a NBA lottery pick after two years at Oklahoma State, while Forte has grown from a three-point specialist into a more complete player.
“I’d say he’s got as much range as anybody in the country,” Self said. “Against us last year, he made a couple, especially in the first game here, that were ridiculous.”
Self surveys Big 12 race
Self and Kansas have won 10 straight Big 12 titles by using a simple formula: Hold serve at home and find ways to grind out victories on the road. This year, the Big 12 has already offered a few curious results. Kansas State traveled to a ranked Oklahoma and knocked off the Sooners in Norman, while West Virginia suffered a home loss to Iowa State. On Monday, Self said he wasn’t totally surprised by the results.
“This year, don’t be surprised if the winner of our league has one or two losses at home,” Self said. “Just because I think road wins are precious, but I think home wins against top-25 competition are precious, too You’re going to have a lot of teams with opportunities to win on the road because they, themselves, are good.”