Cyclones score 113 in opener
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
AMES — Iowa State knew it had one of the nation’s best players in Monte Morris. But the Cyclones also knew that the healthy return of fellow senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long would be just as crucial to their hopes in 2016-17.
Morris and Mitrou-Long looked as strong as ever in the opener. Morris had his seventh career double-double with 21 points and 11 assists and 24th-ranked Iowa State routed Savannah State 113-71 on Friday night.
Mitrou-Long had 18 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists in his debut following a medical redshirt season for the Cyclones, who won their opener for the 19th year in a row.
“Monte is a really unselfish player…but Naz is the heartbeat of our team. He needs to do a lot of the intangible things for us as well as score,” coach Steve Prohm said.
As expected, Iowa State was met with little resistance from the Tigers. The Cyclones jumped ahead 59-38 at the half — with 16 assists on 24 field goals — and cracked 100 points for the third time under Prohm.
Matt Thomas scored 14 points and Merill Holden added 12 in his Iowa State debut.
Joshua Young had 12 points to lead Savannah State. Iowa State outrebounded the Tigers 62-36.
Iowa State: Iowa State’s rotation — a question mark after Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay graduated — was revealed early. Nine different guys played in the first eight minutes, something happened just once in 2015-15. Transfers Nick Weiler-Babb and Donovan Jackson were the main backcourt reserves, and Darrell Bowie and freshman Solomon Jackson provided frontcourt relief.
Savannah State: The Tigers, picked to finish 11th in their conference, picked up a paycheck that’s vital to the survival of low-major programs like themselves. It likely won’t be until early in the MEAC season to know whether Savannah has enough talent to outperform its expectations.
Iowa State blew out a team it was supposed to blow out, so it’s hard to imagine it’ll move much. But No. 18 UConn’s upset defeat should lift everyone below them up at least a spot.
Morris, who might have left for the NBA had he not injured his shoulder late last season, sealed his double-double with 17 minutes left in the second half. The Big 12 preseason player of the year finished 9 of 11 from the floor and added three steals. “The pressure is just coming to work every day and just showing the guys the way,” Morris said.
NOT SO YOUNG AFTER ALL
One of the things Iowa State has lacked in recent years is an impact big man with the physicality to hang in the paint in the bruising Big 12. Young, at 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, looked the part in the opener. He finished with 11 points and five rebounds in just 14 points, though he also fouled out.
HE SAID IT
“I didn’t know I had seven assists. I thought Monte had 30,” Mitrou-Long said about being pulled before getting a chance to finish off a triple-double. Mitrou-Long took a medical redshirt after eight games last season because his surgically repaired hips weren’t fully healed.
Iowa State hosts Mount St. Mary’s on Monday.
Savannah State stays in Iowa to play the cross-state Hawkeyes on Sunday.