Monte Morris gets big minutes off the bench in loss against Kansas


Freshman guard Monte Morris gets fouled during the Cyclones’ 92-81 loss to Kansas. Morris scored four points for Iowa State.

Alex Halsted

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Monte Morris doesn’t care whether he starts the game on the court or on the bench for the Cyclones.

It turns out that it might not matter, either. The freshman guard played 35 minutes off the bench in No. 16 Iowa State’s 92-81 loss against No. 6 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 29.

“I’m playing enough where you’d think I was starting. If you look at the minutes on the sheet,” Morris said. “If (coach) puts me in the lineup, I’ll be ready.”

Morris’ minutes have continued to rise since the start of Big 12 play in early January. On one of the biggest stages of his young career Jan. 29, he set a career-high in front of 16,300 fans and against a Kansas team that has lost only nine home conference games since the Big 12 formed in 1996-97.

The rise in his minutes is for good reason. Morris has had a turnover in only one of Iowa State’s last 10 games dating back to Dec. 23 after scoring four points and bringing in three rebounds without a turnover against Kansas.

“Just poise and always being in the right spot and handling the pressure,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg of the reason Morris’ extended minutes. “Another game without a turnover. He’s just so poised for a freshman out there. I felt we had to have him on the floor.”

Morris entered the game leading the Big 12 with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 9.5 in conference play. Only one other player in the top-14 has less than 10 turnovers in Big 12 games along with Morris.

In seven Big 12 games, Morris has 20 assists to only two turnovers, which both came against Kansas State on Jan. 25.

“I’m not going out there (thinking about) not having a turnover,” Morris said. “It’s just not happening.”

Hoiberg has turned to Morris in crunch time, putting him on the court Saturday when Iowa State needed defensive stops. Afterward, the fourth-year coach called Morris the best freshman defender he’s seen.

Teammates have taken notice, too.

“He played good, he controlled the game. He’s a freshman, he’s getting better everyday,” said senior guard DeAndre Kane. “We expect a lot out of Monte. Coach played him, and I think he played good.”

He plans to continue on with much of the same whether he comes off the bench or moves into the starting lineup.

“He just told me he likes the spark I bring off the bench. He just trusts me more and more,” Morris said of Hoiberg. “I came in here 35 minutes tonight and gave him something and rebounded the ball.”