The dreaded shooting slump.
It happens to all basketball players at some point in their careers; even the greats. That stretch where no matter how much you practice, how many shots you take, or how many open looks you get, the ball just won’t find the bottom of the net.
The latest victim of this virus is OSU Senior Guard Phil Forte III.
Forte is having his worst shooting season since his Freshman year. He’s hitting only 36% of his shots (the lowest of his career) including 34% from three (second lowest).
The slump started against No. 4 North Carolina in Maui. After starting the season shooting 24-45 (53%), Forte went 0-3 against the Tar Heels. Over the following six games, Forte went 13-59 for 22% from the court, including 10-39 for 26% from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 13.1 points a game, but it’s coming on an average of 10.1 shots.
So what is causing the worst shooting stretch of Forte’s OSU career?
The poor shooting against the Tar Heels is understanding. No one was particularly great in that 32 point beat-down. We could blame two of the games, Tulsa and Arkansas Pine-Bluff, on a bruised tailbone Forte suffered during practice. That doesn’t explain the other three games against Georgetown, Rogers State, and Maryland.
Forte returned to the Cowboys this year after a torn ligament in his left elbow brought his senior season to an end after just three games. He didn’t play basketball again until long after OSU’s season was over. Perhaps he wasn’t as ready as we thought for the year. Maybe he started well, but hit a wall because he still wasn’t at 100% when the season tipped off.
Maybe it’s the coaching change. Underwood has proven himself to be a good coach, and the Cowboys have looked good. It’s still a big change for Forte, who played under Travis Ford for four years.
Or maybe it’s what happens to all great shooters; he just hit a slump. Despite shooting 100s of balls a day in practice, Forte just had a bad stretch.
It’s not like Forte hasn’t been effective when on the court. He’s averaging a career high 2.1 rebounds a game. He’s also leading the NCAA in free throw shooting percentage at .978. He’s only missed one free throw all year (He went 7-8 against UConn).
Forte also seemed to shake the slump off against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Thursday. He scored 19 points on 6-13 shooting, including 5-10 from three.
OSU did go 5-2 during the seven game slump, which shows that while Forte is important, this team has talent and depth and the ability to win without him.
That said, now would be the perfect time for Forte find his shot. Big 12 play starts for the Cowboys in less than a week. While Underwood has had this team playing well, (especially the freshmen) but there’s a big difference between Big 12 play and our non-conference slate of games. Forte is going to be an important piece alongside Jawun Evans and Jeffrey Carroll.
Let’s hope the TAMU-CC game is the sign that things are back to normal for OSU’s sharpshooter.