Naz Mitrou-Long scored a career-high 37 points as Iowa State defeated Drake, 97-80, in the second game of the Hy-Vee Classic at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Mitrou-Long hit 14 of 18 shots, including 8 of 12 from beyond the arc.
In a game that was much closer than expected, Iowa State and Drake went back and forth for most of the day before the Cyclones finished strong. Drake jumped out to a 7-0 lead before the teams traded runs in the first half. Iowa State led 42-40 at the break despite shooting poorly and giving up too many open looks.
The tug-of-war continued in the second half with Drake pulling ahead 56-55. Nick Weiler-Babb scored five points in a 7-0 Iowa State run to reestablish the lead for the Cyclones. With the score tied, Darrell Bowie came to life, grabbing an offensive rebound and a three-point play to put the pressure on Drake. The Bulldogs ran out of steam down the stretch as Iowa State got what it wanted in transition. The Cyclones ended on a 21-4 run to close out a game that was closer than the score indicated.
- Naz Mitrou-Long, welcome back! Maybe. I’ve been hard on Naz all season because of his sloppy play and poor shot selection, but yesterday was a welcome sight. Mitrou-Long was back to his old ways, canning threes from all over the court and using his strength to get to the hoop. I still need to see him produce against tougher competition before I’m comfortable saying he’s all the way back, but it was fun to watch him dominate after a rough stretch to start the season.
- It’s hard to say Iowa State struggled on offense after scoring 97 points, but it’s fair to question this team’s offensive prowess. Without the hot shooting of Mitrou-Long, it would have been a much different story, as his eight teammates shot only 20-59 from the field. This team is struggling to get good looks from outside and easy baskets inside. It’s a major concern.
- Darrell I-will-not-call-you-David Bowie replaced Merrill Holden in the starting lineup for the first time this season. Coach Steve Prohm mentioned Holden had a bum shoulder, but you get the sense that this move is permanent. Bowie has been more productive than Holden, and again had a solid game Saturday afternoon, notching 12 points and eight rebounds.
- After a fantastic junior season in which he became a solid two-way player for ISU, Matt Thomas has struggled to find any consistency. The senior from Wisconsin was 2-for-11 from the field and is now just shooting 35.7 percent from three. I expect him to find his stroke sooner rather than later, but conference play is creeping up. The Cyclones will need his offense to have any success in the Big 12.
- Deonte Burton continued his inconsistency, scoring just seven points against a team that was severely outmanned by the Cyclone front line. Burton got some good looks, but he couldn’t get anything to fall. He did manage to grab 10 rebounds and played well during the deciding run.
- I’m not sure if Solomon Young had a nagging injury or matchups dictated the rotation, but he needs to see more than 3 minutes. The promising freshman forward gives the Cyclones an inside presence that has been severely lacking.
- Monte Morris scored a quiet 20 points. I’d like to see him start shooting better from the outside, but Morris has always shot better late in the season, so I’m not worried yet.
- It was tough to glean anything from this game other than Iowa State is not nearly the team we thought they could be. With a backcourt that boasts three seniors, the Cyclone offense has been a big disappointment. There’s little ball movement, the pick and pop offense is not putting any pressure on the defense, and many Cyclones are watching their teammates instead of moving without the ball. But the lack of movement appears to be part of the game plan as Iowa State is content to let its guards go one-on-one on most halfcourt possessions.
- Prohm said in the post-game press conference that he’s going to have to start yelling at his team to run on every possession. He’s right as the halfcourt offense is a disaster, but that doesn’t sound like a guy that has the answers right now. He will need to help this team find its identity as the conference season arrives in two weeks. Right now, they’re lost.
- I can’t speak to the atmosphere surrounding the Hy-Vee Classic, but from my TV screen, the arena looked depressing. Chalk it up to bad teams and bad games, but this event needs a second look. I’d like to see them return to the home arenas. If Drake and UNI want to play Iowa State and Iowa, make them come to Ames and Iowa City.