Freshmen Answer Call in ISU Victory

A 20-5 Missouri run midway through the second half Wednesday night gave Iowa State quite a few reasons to doubt itself. Two second half collapses on the road in one week can do that to a team. But the Cyclones used a little Hilton Magic and the clutch play of freshman Curtis Stinson to snare a 70-65 win in their Big 12 opener.

Stinson scored 16 of his 22 points in the closing 20 minutes, hitting three buckets in a row that ended Mizzou's run and led ISU on a late game-clinching run.

The poise of the Cyclone freshman is not typical of many freshmen competing at the Division I level.

"I had a terrible first half, so I knew I had to come out and help my team in the second half," said Stinson. "I knew Missouri was going to make a run. I tried to pull us through and the shots fell. I didn't get nervous at all. We had plenty of time in a ballgame like this. The crowd was on our side, we stayed together and played hard."

Stinson's freshman sidekick Will Blalock provided a similar boost for the 8-2 Cyclones, scoring 11 points while dishing out five assists and grabbing a game-high four steals.

During an off night from veteran Jake Sullivan – 11 points on just six field goal attempts – the newcomers used their playmaking abilities to get shots and find open teammates.

"When we got down we didn't go crazy," Stinson said. "We kept our composure, played defense, made some stops and got some baskets. We spread the floor and then Will and I penetrated, got in the lane and got some baskets. When you've got a great shooter like Jake, you let him spot up and have us penetrate and kick it to him. Then we've got (Jared) Homan and (Jackson) Vroman that can bang, so it's good that Will and I can penetrate into the gaps."

ISU's victorious coach Wayne Morgan was nearly left speechless trying to describe the performances from Stinson and Blalock.

"Curtis was wonderful," said Morgan, who's team got back on the winning track after back-to-back losses to San Diego State and Virginia. "I don't have enough good adjectives for he and Will. They were terrific. I can't imagine anywhere in America on any college team on this level that there are two freshmen that mean more to their team than those two mean to us. They're great."

Once Stinson got the Cyclones going with six unanswered points in the second half, Homan put them over the top nearly a minute later with a bucket inside. Mizzou answered with what would end up being its final points of the game when Rickey Paulding sunk two free throws with 2:06 remaining.

But Stinson once again came up huge for his team, hitting a basket with 55 seconds to play to give ISU the lead for good, 66-65. Sullivan and Homan each added a pair of free throws from there to seal the victory.

The second-half rally enabled Homan to breathe a big sigh of relief.

"Right now the main thing we gain is confidence after going on that week road trip and losing two games," he said. "Everybody was questioning a couple things here and there, wondering what they could do. This really gives us some confidence going into Nebraska Saturday."

Expect another close contest this weekend, said Morgan, who believes the 10-1 Huskers present some more challenges for his team.

"Nebraska is a good team," he said. "They've had a tremendous non-conference run so far. Those guys have improved and I think we're in for another terrific game. Every league game is going to be a battle."

Tip-off for Saturday is set for 7 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum.

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