Not the deepest team by any stretch of the imagination, Steve Prohm’s Iowa State Cyclones took a personnel hit Tuesday afternoon as it was announced that senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long would miss the remainder of the season. Mitrou-Long, a starter for the Cyclones, underwent arthroscopic procedures on both hips this summer and the recovery process has been slow enough to require that he sit out.
Mitrou-Long didn’t play in Iowa State’s game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff Sunday in hopes that some extra rest would prove beneficial, but the issues remain the same.
“Naz came to me recently and explained his desire to sit out the remainder of this season and seek a medical hardship,” Prohm said in the release. “We support his decision as he works to get back to where he was physically prior to the injury. Naz is a terrific person and an important part of our team both on and off the court. I’m confident his teammates will come together and respond to this in a positive manner.”
Mitrou-Long averaged 12.0 points per game in eight appearances this season, all starts. With him no longer in the rotation Iowa State will need more from guards Matt Thomas and Hallice Cooke moving forward. Thomas, who’s averaging 8.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in 26 minutes of action per game, has played well of late. In the last two games he’s shot 11-for-17 from three, scoring 19 points in the Cyclones’ comeback win over Iowa and following that up with a 17-point performance against UAPB.
Cooke, who began his college career at Oregon State, is currently averaging 5.4 points and 14.9 minutes per game and he went scoreless on Sunday. Iowa State will add forward Deonte Burton (transfer from Marquette) to the mix at the end of the week when they take on Northern Iowa, but to lose Mitrou-Long hurts given the spark he provides the Cyclones in the energy department as well as being a capable perimeter shooter.
AMES, Iowa (AP) Jameel McKay scored 18 points with eight rebounds, and No. 4 Iowa State held off Arkansas-Pine Bluff 78-64 Sunday for its ninth straight win.
Matt Thomas had 17 points in his first start of the season for the Cyclones (9-0). They rested guard Naz Mitrou-Long, who is still working his way back from offseason surgery to repair both hips.
The Golden Lions (2-8) hung around for about 35 minutes against an Iowa State team three days removed from an emotional 83-82 win over rival Iowa. But Monte Morris’ alley-oop to McKay gave the Cyclones a 70-54 lead with just more than 5 minutes left.
Ghiavonni Robinson scored 15 points for Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which lost its third straight.
This was Iowa State’s second-to-last game against a low-major opponent. Arkansas-Pine Bluff caused more problems for the Cyclones than most thought it could.
Iowa State was sloppy from the outset, turning the ball over seven times in the first 10 minutes. It didn’t take its first double-digit lead until late in the first half, when a pair of free throws by Abdel Nader put the Cyclones up 33-23.
The Golden Lions played at times as well as they have all season, and some defensive lapses kept Iowa State from making the kind of big run that would’ve put them away earlier. The Cyclones also committed 13 turnovers, but the game was never really in doubt.
Morris, whose floater with 9 seconds left beat the Hawkeyes, had 12 points and 11 assists for his third double-double this season.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff: The Golden Lions have been beaten by at least 14 points in each of their losses. … Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s first home game isn’t until Jan. 16 against Southern. … Arkansas-Pine Bluff hit just two free throws.
Iowa State: Mitrou-Long started the first eight games, averaging 12 points. Thomas started in place of Long. … Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register missed the game after breaking his leg when fans stormed the court following Thursday’s win over Iowa. Peterson told The Associated Press he hopes to cover Iowa State’s next game, Saturday in Des Moines against Northern Iowa.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff plays at Santa Clara on Tuesday.
Iowa State plays Northern Iowa in Des Moines on Saturday.
Iowa State junior guard Matt Thomas was brought into the program a few years back to be a perimeter shooting weapon. The 6-foot-4 native of Wisconsin saw his minutes decline as a sophomore last season and he’s hoping to be more of a consistent presence under new head coach Steve Prohm.
In a story from Todd Sommerfeldt of the LaCrosse Tribune, Thomas described how he’s communicating and trying to learn what Prohm wants out of him for this season. Now that former head coach Fred Hoiberg has moved on to the Chicago Bulls, Thomas has a clean slate with a new head coach.
“We had individual meetings with him,” Thomas said of Prohm in the story. “He told me what he’s all about, and what he said matched my beliefs.
“He expects a lot and holds guys accountable, and I like that.”
While Thomas might have struggled to find the floor in the second half as a sophomore, part of the reason he wasn’t seeing heavy minutes is his perimeter shot has struggled at times during his college career. Thomas is a 33 percent career 3-point shooter in his two seasons at Iowa State and I’m sure both the team and Thomas would like to see that number improve this season.
It’s hard to say why Thomas didn’t shoot the ball as well as he could have these past few seasons, but he was a starter for Iowa State on their trip to Spain this summer and he could be an important piece to this season’s roster. If he’s spacing the floor and hitting shots, it makes the Cyclones that much tougher to defend this season.
No. 13 Iowa State holds off Alabama as bench additions give them even more weapons
Iowa State knows how to score the ball. This much we know. Entering Monday night’s semifinal against Alabama in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, we knew that the No. 13 Cyclones would put up points and have a balanced effort from their offense.
But with the addition of Matt Thomas, who returned from suspension for his first game of the season on Monday, Iowa State’s offense added another dimension in its 84-74 win over Alabama. Despite the Crimson Tide doing all they could to stay in the game, even with a pro-Iowa State crowd in Kansas City, they just couldn’t do enough to slow down the Cyclone offense. Anthony Grant threw traps and different looks at the Iowa State offense, but he just couldn’t slow them down or get Cyclone point guard Monte Morris off his game despite a poor shooting night.
Georges Niang had 18 points in the first half to end up with a game-high 28 points for Iowa State as he was joined in double-figures by Dustin Hogue (17 points), Naz Long (15 points) and Thomas (13 points). The return of Thomas, a 6-foot-3 sophomore sharpshooter, made Iowa State’s offense reach another gear.
Thomas was 5-for-6 from the field and 3-for-4 from three-point range on Monday night and his ability to shoot with nearly unlimited range gives Morris even more space to operate when penetrating the defense. Morris struggled to 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting, but in true Monte Morris fashion, he had 12 assists and zero turnovers. In 112 minutes so far this season, Morris has only turned the ball over twice while he’s found teammates for 24 assists.
Between the unreal efficiency displayed by Morris and the weapons surrounding him, Iowa State might have one of the five most dangerous offenses in the country this season. They have a point guard that never turns the ball over, an inside threat in Niang, and plenty of floor-spacers and slashers to round out the rotation. Even with Niang having an off-night against Georgia State and Morris not shooting well against Alabama, Iowa State won by double-digits in both games against talented teams.
All that comes now is defense. Monday was a solid start for Iowa State in that capacity as they held Alabama to 38 percent shooting and 28 percent three-point shooting on the evening. If it weren’t for a big night from Tide guard Rodney Cooper, who finished with 27 points in a heck of an effort in a losing cause, then Iowa State wins that game with ease.
This Cyclone team is still going to need some time to fully click but the addition of transfer shot blocker Jameel McKay should especially help on the defensive side of the ball in December and this Iowa State team looks very dangerous and ready to compete for the Big 12 title this season.
Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We continue our countdown today with No. 17 Iowa State.
– G: Monte Morris, So.
– G: Bryce Dejean-Jones, Sr.
– G: Naz Long, Jr.
– F: Dustin Hogue, Sr.
– F: Georges Niang, Jr.
– Bench: Abdel Nader, Jr.; Matt Thomas, So.; Jameel McKay, Jr.; Georgis Tsalmpouris, Fr.; Clayton Custer, Fr.
They’ll be good because … : This is precisely the kind of roster that Fred Hoiberg always has success with. They have the matchup nightmare in Georges Niang, who has lost 25 pounds and may be the single-toughest player to guard in all of college basketball this season. They have a seemingly endless supply of big guards that can knock down threes — Naz Long, Matt Thomas, Abdel Nader, Bryce Dejean-Jones. They have Dustin Hogue, an uber-athletic combo-forward that should do a decent job filling the role vacated by Melvin Ejim. And they have Monte Morris, a sophomore point guard that should have a big year handling the primary point guard duties.
Hoiberg has the athletes that will allow him to get up and down the floor and the shooters that will allow him to spread things out offensively. No coach in the country is better than Hoiberg at drawing up sets that will put his players in a position to succeed, where they can capitalize on their strengths and take advantage of mismatches. Throw in the aura of playing in Hilton Coliseum — Hilton Magic is real, ladies and gentlemen — and the Cyclones will once again be one of the most entertaining teams in the country to watch.
But they might disappoint because … : There are a couple of things that concern me about the Cyclones this season, so I’ll just go ahead and lay them out in bullet points:
Defense: The Cyclones have never been known for their defensive ability under Fred Hoiberg — they’ve yet to finish a season ranked in KenPom’s top 50 defensively — which should always be a concern.
Bryce Dejean-Jones: This is less of a concern than it is a question mark. BDJ built a reputation for being too much of a gunner during his time at UNLV and USC. I’d bet on Hoiberg getting through to him — he’s batting about 1.000 on transfers in his Iowa State tenure — but until we see it happen, it’s a red flag.
Too much Hilton Magic?: Hilton Coliseum is one of the best home courts in the country, but I always get a bit worried by teams that are dominant in their own gyms and struggle on the road. I know, the NCAA tournament is never a road game, but it’s also not a home game, either.
Outlook: With all due respect to Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo and Bill Self and all the other usual suspects when naming the best coaches in the college game, I’m not sure there is a better x’s-and-o’s coach in the country than Fred Hoiberg. There’s a reason that he’s targeted by many NBA teams every offseason, and it’s not because he had a silky jumper when he was still playing.
Simply put, the man knows how to put his players in a position to succeed, particularly on the offensive end of the floor. He also has a proven track record when it comes to getting the best out of players that are on their second, and sometimes third, chance. I had doubts about the Cyclones heading into last season and they went on to finish third in the Big 12 and reach the Sweet 16. I had doubts about Iowa State the year before that and they finish fourth in the conference and came within an Aaron Craft three of reaching the Sweet 16. I had doubts the year Royce White was on the roster, and the Cyclones won 12 Big 12 games.
I have doubts about this year’s team, more than some of the teams that I have ranked lower than No. 17. But I’ve reached the point where I’ll trust that Fred Hoiberg finds a way to make everything fit together.
Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg announced at Wednesday’s media day that Matt Thomas and Abdel Nader will both be suspended for the season’s first two games, as well as an exhibition game, for offseason run-ins with the law.
Nader say out the 2013-2014 season in Ames after transferring into the program from Northern Illinois. He was arrested in April for DWI and was immediately suspended indefinitely by Hoiberg. Thomas was also arrested for driving under the influence. A sophomore, Thomas is a sharpshooting guard that averaged 5.5 points as a freshman and started 15 games.
With Nader and Thomas out, the Cyclones will have their depth limited in the back court, but with Monte Morris, Bryce Dejean-Jones and Naz Long available, they likely won’t take a hit from a talent perspective.
Iowa State will play Oakland in their opener on Nov. 14th and a very good, guard-laden Georgia State team on the 17th in their second game.