No. 13 Iowa State holds off Alabama as bench additions give them even more weapons

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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.