Monté Morris took a backseat last night to DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim, understandably so, but the freshman point guard posted double-digit points for the sixth consecutive game and, while Kane thrust his name into the conference and national player of the year race, Morris made a statement of his own: It's going to be alright.
Meaning, for all the talk about Iowa State's lack of depth, and the frequency at which Matt Thomas and Naz Long alternate having "off" nights, Iowa State will be fine going forward with Morris providing some scoring oomph off the bench. Morris was 3-for-4 from the three-point line on his way to 13 points and in the last three games is 5-for-8 from distance.
"I've been in a great groove," Morris said afterward. "Coach Hoiberg told me to stick my landing with my shot and I've been getting in overtime in the gym shooting it.
"Just getting repititions in practice, watching a lot of film and seeing things I need to correct. I feel like I'm taking it all in."
On the season Morris has 41 assists to just nine turnovers and he hasn't coughed the ball up the last five games.
A stat I mined this morning: Kane is one of three players in the last five seasons to achieve in one game a minimum of 30 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and five steals, and the first to hit those marks in regulation time.
And look at the shot selection:
ESPN Stats & Info chimes in with a more remarkable number: Kane is the fourth player since 1996-97 to achieve those marks against a ranked opponent.
About halfway through the regular season, Kane is superior to Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart in traditional and advanced statistics. Better in field goal and three-point percentage, more rebounds and assists per game, a better ORtg, a higher assist rate. Kane averages one point less than Smart per game and draws 6.4 fouls per 40 mints to Smart's 6.5.
Nobody saw this coming from Kane, so it's odd to ask him if he felt jilted at the start of the season when the hubbub was all about Smart and Kansas' Andrew Wiggins in the Big 12. But Kane was asked about it last night — how he might be able to use flying under the radar as motivation.
"Don't get caught up in the hype and buzz," Kane said. "Those guys are great players, too. We'll play them. Got to play them twice, so we'll match up."
Last thing on Kane: Almost single-handly, he limited Baylor's Kenny Chery to to 3-for-14 shooting, including 1-for-12 after Chery made two three-pointers in the first two minutes.
It wasn't an easy mismatch for Kane, tracking the slippery Chery around, but he harassed and bruised him. Chery entered the game shooting 50.5 from the floor.
"Contest all his shots, make it tough for him," Kane said when asked of his strategy. "We did a great job on him, team effort overall."
The Cyclones last season were burned by Baylor's point guard, Pierre Jackson, to the tune of 23 and 30 points in the two contests. Not Tuesday night.
Isaiah Austin took one jumper, a three-pointer, but was totally unassertive. Baylor coach Scott Drew said the Cyclones did a nice job packing the paint, but Austin had a four-inch advantage over anyone guarding him and, when he flashed, was nearly unstoppable. The 7-footer took just eight shots, and he made five of them, but the Bears needed more than 10 points from him.
To his credit, Austin killed it on the glass — four offensive boards, 12 total — and swatted three shots.
Iowa State started with Georges Niang on Austin until Niang got in foul trouble, then stuck Ejim on him. It helped the Cyclones matchup-wise that Cory Jefferson played only 22 minutes (with one foul; it wasn't a good game for Drew).
The Cyclones mostly fronted Austin in the post, shielding him from the ball-handler, and it worked, Austin not being strong enough to shuck off the defenders. Five times Austin turned the ball over, victimized by some sneaky work by the Cyclones, who'd blitz a guard at him from behind to poke the ball out, or have the man guarding Austin give him cushion to call for a pass, then jump on it once the ball arrived.
He'll get little press, but a still-ill Dustin Hogue (10 rebounds, eight points) was instrumental in keeping Iowa State from getting shellacked in the rebounding margin.