Guard Play Key in 87-64 Victory

Jake Sullivan became Iowa State's most prolific 3-point shooter of all-time Friday night in an 87-64 victory over Mercer. But it was far from a one-man show for the Wayne Morgan-led Cyclones, who cruised to a season-opening win at Hilton Coliseum.

In fact, Sullivan's record-breaking three was little more than a sidebar in a game that featured four players scoring in double figures and five with at least one assist.

"I couldn't be happier for him, and it could not have happened to a better kid," said Morgan, who picked up his first victory as ISU's head coach. " He has done so much for our program and the Cyclones with the work he's put in. Jake's been completely unselfish and is not shooting shots when he doesn't have them. He's playing the game and not worrying about statistics. He is taking care of what we need to try and do to be successful."

Sullivan surpassed former Cyclone Dedric Willoughby, who hit 190 3-pointers in just two seasons (1996-97) under Tim Floyd.

Friday was also reminiscent of Sullivan's early days as a Cyclone. Instead of having Jamaal Tinsley and Kantrail Horton around him, Sullivan flourished with freshman point guards Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock. He took just seven shots in 31 minutes, scoring 14 points and dishing out six assists.

The two first-year guards stole the show, especially Stinson, who hit on 9-of-14 shots for 20 points. He also handed out five assists and grabbed six rebounds. Blalock, meanwhile, took care of running the offense and dished out a team-high seven assists while committing one turnover.

"They're as good of freshmen as I've ever seen, and they showed it tonight," said Sullivan. "It makes life really easy out there. They are better than I was as a freshman. I don't remember scoring 20 points in my first night, or running the team and having seven assists and one turnover like Will. They're doing a great job right now.

"It makes it easy to get those kind of records when I'm playing with two good guards like that. The freshmen were amazing tonight. I just stood out there and shot. It kind of felt like my freshman year again. It's kind of fun."

If not for a discrepancy in the final rebounding margin, Morgan might not have found many negatives in his team's effort. Mercer owned a decisive 41-28 edge on the boards, led by Scott Emerson's 13 rebounds.

"Obviously, our rebounding needs to get a little bit better," Morgan said. "We did not rebound the ball well tonight. We'll work at it. I think we're a better rebounding team than we showed tonight."

The Cyclone defense made up for that margin by forcing 24 Bear turnovers and holding them 39 percent shooting from the field.

"In the first half we had a real good effort," Morgan said. "There were times we were able to formulate some traps and give them some trouble and surprise them with that. But in the second half there came a time when we kind of played and didn't have the intensity I would like us to have."

Stinson's 20 points led all scorers, while Marcus Jefferson and Jared Homan added 16 points to ISU's final tally. After battling injuries throughout the preseason, Damion Staple looked close to 100 percent Friday, contributing eight points and five rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.

After two exhibitions and a late start to the regular season, Morgan was anxious to get his first regular season game behind him.

"It went OK; we were ahead the whole time," he said. "I was home and getting dressed to come over to Hilton, and my wife asked if I was nervous. I said, ‘No, I'm not nervous.' I've been doing this for a long time. I was looking forward to it and excited for it. If we get a chance to play for a Big 12 championship or berth to the Final Four someday, then I'll be nervous."

But first thing's first for ISU and Morgan – a home date with UNI Sunday afternoon at Noon.

Notes:

In addition to Hilton Coliseum regulars Steve Welmer and Tom O'Neill, Friday night's game was also officiated by Curtis Shaw. Cyclone fans will remember Shaw as the official who kicked former head coach Larry Eustachy out of a 2000 NCAA Tournament game against Michigan State. Shaw whistled Eustachy for consecutive technical fouls in the waning moments of a 75-64 loss in the Elite Eight.


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