NOTEBOOK: Morris, Niang lead again, Cyclones prepare for turnaround

Alex Gookin

The duo of Monté Morris and Georges Niang has been virtually unstoppable this season, especially in the second half. Against Texas in the quarterfinal game of the Big 12 tournament, they lived up to all the hype they’ve accrued.

With less than six seconds left with the game tied, Morris took the in-bounds pass from Dustin Hogue, drove to the right wing and drained a 20-foot shot at the buzzer to lift the Cyclones in an improbable comeback win.

But it wasn’t just the game-winner that was impressive, it was the manner in which Morris and Niang dominated that should make real headlines. Scoring 46 of the team’s 69 points, dishing out nine of the team’s 10 assists, making 6-of-9 threes and hitting 8-of-8 free throws, the ISU all-stars did virtually everything for a team that was otherwise stagnant.

But this isn’t the first time the duo has gone off. In fact, they’ve made it a bit of a habit in the last three games. Against TCU, it was 38 points and 12 assists. Against Oklahoma, it was 42 points and nine assists. Against Texas, 46 points and nine assists, and the kicker — a game-winning shot.

“Still not sure how we won,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg after the game. “These guys made a heck of a play on that last possession, coming up, Georges slipping out of a screen. They actually defended it very well and Monté Morris just made a heck of an individual play.”

Morris finished with a career night, scoring a career-high 24 points in his 21st double-digit scoring effort of the season and collected five steals, while Niang added 22 points and six assists. Iowa State’s next highest scorer was Naz Long with eight points.

Quick turnaround

While the thrill of a buzzer-beater made for a memorable night, the Cyclones are forced to scrap it from their memory as they face their next opponent than 24 hours later.

The Cyclones will take on Oklahoma in the semifinal game of the Big 12 tournament Friday night. After the high of a buzzer-beating win, the Cyclones say they aren’t intimidated by the challenge.

“I think Coach is going to have us locked in for the rest of this tournament,” Niang said. “It’s a mental aspect. We really just got to come in and really respect our opponent and come in with a locked-in mind to run our stuff and defend against their stuff.”

The Cyclones have already been part of an incredible comeback against Oklahoma this year, going on a 22-0 run to make a 21-point comeback against the Sooners just two games before the buzzer beater against Texas. Oklahoma beat the Cyclones in the first game of the season at home.

But with four straight Big 12 tournament wins and the comfort of the Sprint Center, known as “Hilton South” to ISU fans, the team doesn’t expect the quick turnaround to affect the team’s performance.

“We didn’t come here to win one game, we came here to win three,” said Jameel McKay. “We can’t just be satisfied with winning tonight. After we leave this locker room, we’ve got to be focused on who we play next.”