Mr. 100: Monte Morris
As Herm Edwards would say, “you play to win the game.” Statistics are fun for fans to talk about, but at the end of the day winning impacts our feelings as fans the most. Many greats have paced up and down the sidelines of Hilton Coliseum, but none of them ever recorded 100 wins. Gary Thompson? Nope. Jeff Hornacek? Negative. Surely, Fred Hoiberg accomplished this, right? No.
One player in Iowa State history has now won 100 games as a player: Monte Morris.
If you want to talk about individual statistics, that’s fine, because Morris has those too, but his most impressive stat when he leaves Ames will be his win total. To be fair, his personal statistics have had an incredible impact on collecting wins, which is why his jersey will one day hang from the rafters inside James H. Hilton Coliseum.
Playing in the shadows of other great players, Morris was under-recognized early in his career. Steve Prohm would tell you he’s still getting snubbed, but it might be time we give serious consideration to identifying him as the best Cyclone of all-time.
The key to any winning program is protecting your home court. Under Morris’ leadership, the Cyclones have collected 56 wins inside Hilton Coliseum. Compared to only seven losses, that record is pretty astonishing. During that time they’ve had non-conference wins, conference wins, buzzer-beater wins and even a win against a team ranked #1. For fans, these were the ones most of us were able to be there in person for, making our trips to Ames all that more enjoyable.
The popular theme surrounding the Cyclones had long been, “tough at home, can’t win on the road.” Road wins are always a bit sweeter for that reason, and Morris led his team to several big ones. There was his very first road game, a 90-88 win in Provo, Utah against the BYU Cougars. A couple weeks later, he led his team to their first win in Stillwater, Oklahoma since 1988, a win that helped jump-start Iowa State’s 10-game winning streak against the Cowboys.
The road wins came in all shapes and sizes, but none was bigger than Iowa State’s overtime victory over the Kansas Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse earlier this season.
Compared to his record against the rest of the Big 12, 5-5 might not appear to stand out on paper until you look at the opponent. When Missouri left for the SEC, Kansas was left without a true rival outside of Kansas State. For a rivalry to truly be a rivalry, both teams have to win at some point.
Thanks to Monte Morris, Kansas and Iowa State have developed a bit of a rivalry in part due to Iowa State’s success against Kansas, including wins in Ames, Lawerence and Kansas City. Should Iowa State advance to the Sweet 16, they might get one more crack at the Jayhawks and a chance for Monte to finish with a winning record against Bill Self and company.
Before Morris arrived in Ames, the Cyclones had collected merely one Big 12 Tournament win and one NCAA Tournament win since 2005. Four years later, the senior point guard has collected nine Big 12 Tournament wins (including three championships) and five NCAA Tournament wins (and counting) for a total of 14 (!) postseason wins.
In non-conference and postseason tournament play, Morris has compiled a 22-6 record. Should the Cyclones take down Purdue on Saturday, Morris would add a third Sweet 16 appearance to go along with his three Big 12 Tournament titles, a certainly unprecedented run for any Cyclone.
Five More Wins?
Let us not forget when Fred Hoiberg left for the Bulls, the golden age of Iowa State basketball was supposed to leave with him. When Morris returned for his senior season along with fellow seniors Matt Thomas, Naz Mitrou-Long and Deonte Burton, the expectations changed.
We don’t know how many games this group has left in them. With every win, Morris will add to his already impressive win total and continue to raise the bar for future Cyclone point guards. A loss on Saturday night won’t tarnish his legacy. It won’t change his place in Cyclone history. It would simply be disappointing for Iowa State fans because we won’t get the pleasure to watch him lead this team anymore.
At some point, the ride will come to an end, but it’s already been a success. Many bet against Iowa State in their first round game and many will bet against them in their second round game. In fact, even Tom Izzo bet against Monte Morris when he was coming out of Flint, Michigan. For some Cyclone fans, we may not realize what we had until he’s gone, but after watching the last four years, we know it would be foolish to bet against him.
Here’s to the final five wins.