monte morris

Monte Morris and the sophomore leap

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Next season will be a unique one for Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg — it will be the first year the offense will be orchestrated by a guard recruited to Ames by Hoiberg. Sure, he has had some fine guards, including Diante Garrett, Royce White, Chris Allen, Korie Lucious, and DeAndre Kane, but that sextet were either leftovers from the previous coaching staff or transfers convinced Iowa State was the best place to continue their careers. What Hoiberg hasn’t done, and what he will accomplish in 2014-15, is having recruited a guard from high school with the specific purpose of playing the point.

When Monte Morris arrived on campus, he was clearly overlooked in favor of the expectations set for Matt Thomas, a Cyclone newbie who was expected to shine from day one, yet Morris has developed into one of the Big 12’s top guards. Consider that on a team with Melvin Ejim, the conference’s player of the year, Georges Niang, and Kane, Morris’ offensive rating led the squad. When Morris was ushered into the starting lineup, ISU went 13-4, and the evolution of his game and understanding of how to run an offense allowed the other four Cyclones to execute their offense unburdened with trying to set up teammates — Morris would find whichever Cyclone was open at the right moment.

Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune notes Morris’ assist to turnover ratio set an NCAA record, but what is truly impressive is during that seventeen game stretch, Morris only recorded 17 turnovers (while notching two games with double-digit assists).

Can Morris continue to build off his frosh season? Hoiberg certainly had a rebuilding job when he began this current season, and that job will be tenfold in 2014-15. The return of Niang should help, as will the improvement of Thomas, Naz Long, and Dustin Hogue, but an expectation that must be fulfilled should ISU enjoy another 20-plus win season is the expansion of Morris’ offense. Deferring to teammates propelled the Cyclones in 2014, but Morris will have to shoulder a great percentage of the offense in 2015, but if his shooting is any indication — 41 percent from beyond the arc — Morris has the ability to be an scoring juggernaut.

Brooks’ big game leads No. 15 Oregon over Fresno State 78-73

Dillon Brooks, Torren Jones
AP Photo/Chris Pietsch
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Dillon Brooks had 21 points and 10 rebounds and No. 15 Oregon staved off a late rally by Fresno State for a 78-73 victory Monday night.

Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook added 14 points each for the Ducks (6-0), who led 70-52 with 6:35 to play before Marvelle Harris scored 13 points in a 16-2 run by the Bulldogs (5-1) that cut the deficit to four.

A driving layup by Brooks put Oregon up 74-68 with 1:20 left, and the Ducks held on by making four of six free throws in the final 45 seconds.

Harris, who didn’t score until the 12:04 mark of the second half, led Fresno State with 18 points, while Paul Watson added 11 and Torren Jones had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 41-32 behind Jones and Karachi Edo, who had nine rebounds and 10 points.

Freshman Tyler Dorsey, Oregon’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, finished with 12.

The Ducks scored the game’s first 11 points, went up by as many as 14 and took a 37-25 halftime lead. The Ducks did most of the damage from inside the 3-point arc (9 of 10) and at the free throw line, outscoring the Bulldogs 13-5.

Fresno State, meanwhile, missed its first six shots from the field, shot 29.0 percent (9 of 31) and saw its top two scorers, Harris and Cezar Guerrero, held scoreless for the first 20 minutes.

The senior guards came in averaging 20.2 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.


Fresno State: Harris, the preseason choice for Mountain West Conference player of the year, needed one point to crack the Bulldog’s all-time top 10 in scoring. After going scoreless in the first half, he finished with 18 to rank 10th with 1,425, one behind Tod Bernard in ninth place, in 107 career games. . The Bulldogs fell to 2-10 all-time against Oregon. They last time they beat the Ducks, who have won the last five meetings, was in 1995. . Fresno State hasn’t beaten a Top 25 team on the road since 2000.

Oregon: The double-double was the second of the season Brooks and fourth of his career. . The Ducks are 40-2 against nonconference opponents since moving into Matthew Knight Arena five years ago. . The 6-0 start is Oregon’s second in the last nine years. The Ducks started 13-0 two seasons ago.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.