Notebook: Prohm perfecting offense, Matt Thomas finds new role

Naz Mitrou-Long wipes his shoe during the Cyclones’ 68-62 win against Colorado on Nov. 13, 2015 in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Ryan Young

There was a lot of good that came out of the ISU men’s basketball team’s home opener Monday.

Not only did No. 7 Iowa State (2-0, 0-0 Big 12) leave the arena with a convincing 106-64 win against Chicago State (1-1, 0-0 WAC), but its offense looked much improved from its first outing against Colorado on Friday.

Six different Cyclones finished with double-figures, led by Jameel McKay’s career-high 25 points. They went 41-for-69 from the field and shot nearly 70 percent in the second half.

Yet the team still wasn’t content with how it played.

“It wasn’t a good performance in the first half,” said guard Naz Mitrou-Long. “It was way better in the second half, so I’m glad we came out of here with that type of win.”

Head coach Steve Prohm said what he has seen so far hasn’t been bad, but it needs perfecting — and he thinks this next week is the perfect time for that.

The Cyclones won’t take the court again until Monday, giving Prohm a full week to tweak some things.

“We’ve just relied a lot right now on talent, [and] just playing and playing free,” Prohm said. “Now we have to refine some things and put a little more stuff in, to fine tune some things so everybody knows it in and out as we get going [in the season].”

Thomas fitting into sixth-man role

Matt Thomas didn’t start the first two games of the season, but his impact on the team may be just as valuable as that of a starter.

Thomas was the first Cyclone to come off of the bench in the first two games of the season and is starting to solidify his role as Iowa State’s sixth man.

“I thought [Thomas] — that’s a role he can play for us,” Prohm said. “I think he’s accepted his role right now kind of as our sixth man, and [he’s] making shots and [bringing] some toughness.”

Thomas scored nine points in his 23 minutes against Chicago State on Monday. He shot 50 percent from behind the arc and added four assists. But it wasn’t his offense that impressed Prohm the most — it was his rebounding.

Thomas finished the game with 11 rebounds, tied for the most on the team. Prohm, who has been stressing defensive improvements from the first day of practice, said this is exactly the kind of play that he wants to see out of his guards.

“That’s the biggest thing I think we’ve stressed,” Prohm said. “Our guards, for us to be a complete defensive team, we have to have our guards rebound. [Thomas has] got the size … to rebound down, but we need all of those guys to get in there and help us.”

No redshirt for Ernst

Freshman forward Brady Ernst will not be redshirted this season. Ernst played eight minutes Monday against Chicago State, essentially eliminating the possibility.

Prohm defended his decision, saying Ernst could prove vital in the near future.

“We thought about it, and we’re looking down the road to [conference play] to where you’re going to need some bodies,” Prohm said.

And although he saw the court for the first time against Chicago State on Monday, Prohm cited last Friday’s season opener against Colorado as a perfect example of a situation where Iowa State could use Ernst.

“Right away in the first game, we played a physical team in Colorado, and [with just] 10 minutes left in the first half, we’re in foul trouble,” Prohm said. “Yeah, we went zone, but we may have to use that body, because he’s our next true physical presence around the basket.”

Ernst, a 6-foot-9-inch freshman from Clinton, Iowa, averaged 16.7 points and 12 rebounds per game as a high school senior. In February of his senior season, though, Ernst tore his ACL and was sidelined for the rest of the year.

Only time will tell what impact he will have on this year’s team, but Prohm said Ernst is willing to do whatever he can to contribute.

“We’re all in, and he’s all in,” Prohm said. “And now we’re moving forward.”