Iowa State got all it could handle from Indiana State in its first test of the season, but the Cyclones prevailed, 73-71, behind 20 points from Monte Morris. Matt Thomas hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 54.9 seconds left in the game, and Iowa State was on the good end of a couple of whistles/non-whistles late to take the quarterfinal win in the Advocare Invitational.
This one was ugly. Iowa State shot 34.2 percent from the field and trailed the majority of the game before taking control behind the play of its All-American, Morris. Darrell Bowie also had a strong game despite a horrific showing at the free throw line, going 3-12 on the day. Bowie chipped in 13 points and 11 rebounds with Merrill Holden in foul trouble and Solomon Young out with an injury.
The Sycamores came out hot, jumping out to a 29-21 lead in the first half. They would extend the lead to 33-24 before Iowa State fought back behind a couple of three-pointers from its stars, Morris and Thomas, including a ballsy heat check from Thomas that ignited the pro-Iowa State crowd. Iowa State would finish the half leading 42-41.
It was more of the same in the second half with Indiana State launching deep, sometimes-contested threes that found the bottom of the net. They would build the lead back to six before Iowa State finally got some shots to fall. Naz Mitrou-Long, who struggled most of the game, hit a three to regain the lead at 65-64. Indiana State would fight back, taking another lead before Morris went to work. Morris split a double team before getting it up on the glass to tie the game at 69. Indiana Statge added two free throws to retake the lead, when Deonte Burton drove baseline, threw a no-look pass to Thomas in the corner for the winning basket. Thomas, who struggled to find any rhythm, got a fortuitous bounce as the ball rattled around the rim a couple of times before falling through.
The Sycamores got a clean look from their hot-shooting guard, Brenton Scott, but his deep three rimmed out at the buzzer.
Monte Morris is in mid-season form and carried the Cyclones to the win with timely shot-making and a couple of huge drawn charges down the stretch
Darrell Bowie is going to be a good player for Iowa State, but the 3-12 shooting from the free throw line was painful. At this point, we’ll chalk that up to a bad day. Other than that, he was fantastic as the only true big man for Iowa State
The Cyclones missed Solomon Young, who was sidelined with a hand injury. With starter Merrill Holden once again in foul trouble (ugh), Iowa State needed as much muscle as they could get. ISU cou;ld have used the freshman’s five fouls and high-energy play on the boards.
Personal Hot Take Alert: Naz Mitrou-Long is not the guy we remember from two seasons ago. I understand he’s still long-removed from competitive play, but it’s the bad habits of leaving the floor, poor shot selection and inaccurate shooting that I’m concerned with. Let’s hope he finds his stroke because we know the confidence is there.
This looks like an Iowa State team we’ve seen before. When the shots aren’t falling, it won’t be pretty. But having a true go-to guy in Morris is invaluable, covering up some early-season warts. One guy you can count on to play better sooner rather than later is Thomas.
The Cyclones face the winner of Stanford/Miami tomorrow at 10 a.m. CT on ESPN2.