Ames, Iowa -- Friday night's 91-60 victory over Mercer before an announced crowd of 9,567 fans at Hilton Coliseum proved yet again that as goes Jake Sullivan, so goes the Iowa State men's basketball team.
Sullivan struggled to get open looks against a tenacious Mercer man-to-man defense in the first half, and the result was a precarious 39-34 ISU lead heading into halftime. Then the floodgates opened for Sullivan and the Cyclones, thanks in part to a curious strategic decision by Mercer Coach Mark Slonaker, who elected to deploy a zone defense early in the second half, much to the delight of the sharp-shooting Sullivan. Sullivan connected on four three-pointers during a 26-7 ISU run that broke the game open and broke Mercer's spirit.
"That (zone defense) kind of surprised me," said Sullivan, who finished with a game-high 23 points. "It gave us a different look and we handled it well. It helps when you have a great point guard like Tim Barnes."
Barnes, the highly-touted JUCO transfer point guard, was flawless again. He has yet to commit a turnover this season and was responsible for six of the Cyclones' 17 assists.
Iowa State Coach Larry Eustachy wasn't surprised that Sullivan keyed his team's second half surge.
"He one of our leaders for sure," Eustachy said. "Jake is a different ballplayer now. He has a whole different attitude about what a player should be."
Sullivan was one of five Cyclones to reach double figures in scoring. Freshman Adam Haluska had 15 points, converting on several plays that displayed his athleticism. Barnes added 14 points, Marcus Jefferson came off the bench to score 13 points, and Jackson Vroman chipped in 11 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
"All of our players have the green light," Eustachy said. "But they have to take a shot they can make."
The Cyclones are now 2-0 heading into Monday night's homecourt game against Jackson State.
"We're a sporadic team right now in terms of execution," Eustachy said. "But considering we have three new players playing so much we're about where we should be."