DENVER — Less than one minute into Iowa State’s NCAA tournament opener Thursday, Monte Morris hoisted a 3-pointer that ricocheted off the rim.
And yet that miss was Morris’ starting point.
“I was like, ‘There’s no pain. I’m good,’” Morris said after Iowa State’s 94-81 win against Iona. “Then I made my next one and I was fine. I think that was the shot.”
Morris entered Thursday’s game at the Pepsi Center in a funk having shot only 25.8 percent from the field in the preceding four games including going 1-of-9 from the field in Iowa State’s Big 12 Championship quarterfinals loss to Oklahoma in which he played with a strained right shoulder suffered in the regular season finale.
The junior professed his improved health Wednesday after practice and displayed as much Thursday, scoring 20 points (7-of-12) while dishing out eight assists as the Cyclones advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday.
“I feel better, man,” Morris said. “During the week there was progress everyday and yesterday I felt at my all-time best. I knew if it translated today I would be fine and be able to play at a high level.”
Morris, who got a shot in his right shoulder to numb it before Thursday’s contest, will continue to rehab ahead of Saturday’s matchup with 12-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock.
Despite Spill, Nader Exits Healthy
With just less than six minutes remaining Thursday, Iowa State forward Abdel Nader flew through the air with his eyes set on a throwdown dunk. Instead, the senior collided with Iona guard A.J. English and crashed to the ground.
The cringe-worthy collision and fall ultimately resulted in nothing more than a bruised right elbow for Nader, who made one of the two ensuing free throws.
“I just lost my balance in the air,” Nader said. “I tried to catch my fall with my legs and it didn’t really work out that way. It was a tough fall, but I’ll be all right.”
Nader scored 19 points (6-of-9) and grabbed two rebounds in only 25 minutes of action after he picked up two early fouls in the first half.