Four Takeaways: Iowa State Finishes Preseason Tilt

Iowa State closed out its final tune-up ahead of the 2015-16 season Friday night with a 46-point victory against Grand Valley State. Here is everything you need to know.

AMES, IOWA — Welcome to the Steve Prohm Era, which, in its first public showing Friday night, looked a lot like the Fred Hoiberg Era.

In its final tune-up for the 2015-16 season Friday at Hilton Coliseum, No. 7 Iowa State handed Division II Grand Valley State a lopsided 106-60 loss, hitting 16 3s and assisting on 28 of 37 field goals just as it did so many times in the era that preceded it.

Monte Morris looked like the aggressive point guard Prohm-coached teams have had, Naz Mitrou-Long’s hips showed no signs of wear and the first glimpses of Hallice Cooke, Simeon Carter and Brady Ernst appeared positive.

Here are four takeaways to get caught up.

1. Mitrou-Long’s Season Debut

As Naz Mitrou-Long has waded through the post-hip surgery process there have undoubtedly been ups and downs as he has worked to regain the form that has made him one of the top sharpshooters in Iowa State history.

Friday night, there were no signs that Mitrou-Long’s hips had been a problem.

Mitrou-Long scored a game-high 20 points with help from 6 3-pointers (6-of-7) while also adding a dunk. The senior guard, who hasn’t practiced every day, scored 14 points — 12 coming on four 3s — in a span of 2 minutes, 30 seconds early in the second half.

“It was feeling pretty good. Coach took me out in the second half just to keep me calm,” Mitrou-Long said. “It felt good, but the number that’s sticking out to me is the turnovers. Monte [Morris] is going to break the [assist-to-turnover ratio] record three times in a row and I’m going to break the turnover record. I need to get better on that.”

Most of Mitrou-Long’s five turnovers Friday night came when he was serving as Morris’ backup, running the team from the point. Mitrou-Long is currently Iowa State’s primary point guard when Morris is on the bench.

“I felt good, but I made some bad decisions,” Mitrou-Long said of his minutes at the point. “I was too lackadaisical, that’s all it was.”

“He was fine,” Prohm added. “He’s our backup point. I’ve got great confidence. I had a kid similar to him last year play backup point 10 minutes a game for us and we’ll do different things with him to get ball reversal and get the ball moving side to side. He’s a heady player. He was trying to do a couple things today.”

2. Cooke Jumps into Cyclones' Rotation

Iowa State coach Steve Prohm had often talked about his team’s top-six since the Cyclones began practice in early October with that small group consisting of the starting five and sixth-man Matt Thomas. 

Now, it appears that has become a top-seven.

The Cyclones went with a starting lineup of Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long, Abdel Nader, Georges Niang and Jameel McKay on Friday with Matt Thomas first off the bench. They subbed Hallice Cooke with 12:45 remaining in the first half and finally got eight-deep when Simeon Carter checked in with 12:54 remaining in the second.

“That’s what you’ll probably see [in the season-opener],” Prohm said. “Those seven guys, they’ve kind of obviously separated themselves. What we need from a Simeon or a Brady [Ernst] or Jordan [Ashton], if they do get in, simply just defend and rebound. That’s it. We’ve got enough guys who can score.”

Where Cooke — who scored 12 points on 4-of-5 from 3 — has stood in the rotation has been uncertain as the Oregon State transfer hasn’t appeared to factor into the point guard plans. His emergence has been rather recent as Prohm said his ascent into making it a top-seven rather than a top-six began with the team’s scrimmage against Tulane last Saturday. 

“The good thing about Hallice is I thought he got some confidence,” Prohm said. “That’s the thing he needs to do. Defend his position, rebound the ball, take care of the ball and then defend his spot, but make shots. He’s really a two and can make shots. When he plays with those older guys he plays with confidence.”

Cooke said it took some time to learn the nuances of the offense, defensive rotations and playing the one through three positions. He’s heard a very focused message from Prohm. 

“Defensively and coming in with energy and everything else will take care of itself,” Cooke said of what that message is. “He doesn’t ever talk to me about offense. It’s always just defense and energy.” 

3. Freshmen Provide First Showing

Iowa State provided the first glimpse of freshmen Simeon Carter and Brady Ernst, and the initial appearances showed promise.

Ernst showed his physical ability inside while the lanky Carter showed his athletic ability offensively. Iowa State still hasn’t decided whether or not to redshirt Ernst, and coach Steve Prohm mentioned Friday that as his knee heals he could potentially give Iowa State some extra depth this season.

“I thought Brady showed some good things defensively, showed a physical presence around the basket,” Prohm said. “Simeon showed that, athletically and size-wise, he can help us. But now we’ve got to start growing him defensively. Not playing behind in the post, getting around, rebounding outside of his area, keeping the dribble in front of him. Because what he can do [offensively], you saw a couple drop-offs that he can finish that.”

4. Monte Fills Up the Box Score

Monte Morris has said that coach Steve Prohm wants him to be more aggressive during his junior campaign and has thrown around a scoring increase to 13 or 14 points per game.

Friday he quietly was the best player on the court.

Morris — who Prohm said had 11 assists to one turnover in the scrimmage against Tulane last Saturday — dished out eight assists to one turnover Friday. He also scored 17 points, grabbed four rebounds and had three steals.

“He’s good,” Prohm said. “I think he’s shooting the ball with great confidence. He’s special. He’s got a chance to be really, really good."

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