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AMES — An era of Iowa State basketball is coming to an end.
When senior guards Monte Morris, Matt Thomas, Naz Mitrou-Long and Deonte Burton take the floor Tuesday for No. 24 Iowa State against Oklahoma State (8 p.m. ESPN2), they’ll do so with a chance to add to their already lengthy resume.
Five straight NCAA tournaments — soon to be six — with two Big 12 tournament titles, two Sweet 16s, buzzer beaters and comebacks are all highlights. The beauty of that success is that every moment means something different to each player.
Senior Night for Mitrou-Long means revisiting the buzzer-beater 3-pointers he made as a sophomore that have helped the Cyclones (19-9, 11-5) win nine straight against the Cowboys (20-9, 9-7).
“I wouldn’t want any other team than them,” Mitrou-Long said. “The hottest team in the league right now to come in here and us to have to earn a ‘W’ rather than just get one. It’s not easy to do that against anyone in the conference, but they’re hot right now, real hot.”
Oklahoma State and Iowa State could qualify as the hottest teams in the conference — other than No. 1 Kansas. After winning the first meeting in Stillwater, the Cyclones have won five straight while the Cowboys have won nine of the last 10 — they started 0-6 in Big 12 play.
Oklahoma State is led by the three-headed monster of Jawun Evans, Phil Forte and Jeffrey Carroll and is the No. 2 KenPom.com adjusted offense nationally. In a 96-86 loss to Iowa State on Jan. 11 they had 16 turnovers while Morris went on to pour in 30 points with five assists and no turnovers.
“Their offense is dangerous ... especially transition,” Morris said. “They can get going. Evans is a heck of a player and once he’s comfortable out there he can really give you problems and also Phil Forte. And Carroll played good down there too.
“Just slowing those guys down will be good for us. But it’ll be fun. That’s what this league is about.”
In the course of five seasons, Mitrou-Long has won 56 games in Hilton Coliseum while Morris (55) and Thomas (53) nip at his heels. The all-time ISU wins leader, Georges Niang, won 60 games in Hilton.
When Thomas spent a moment thinking about some of the bigger wins in his home career, he thought of the comebacks against Oklahoma and Iowa. He started to laugh when he thought of a moment where he earned some style points.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the highest decibel level was after I dunked versus Kansas,” Thomas said with a smile. “I’m just kidding, somebody told me that.”
Mitrou-Long, Morris, Thomas and Burton share Senior Night with Darrell Bowie, Merrill Holden and Stu Nezlek, marking the end of players recruited to Iowa State by former coach Fred Hoiberg.
When coach Steve Prohm arrived in Ames a year and a half ago, he had veterans to rely on. As the end of year two nears, Prohm could start to put into perspective what the core group of seniors has meant to him in his own growth as a coach.
“I’ll be probably teary-eyed tomorrow because these guys have meant a lot to me,” Prohm said. “Last year at times we hit adversity, they could have bailed. This year we hit adversity, they could have bailed.
“Their character and their commitment to this program has been second to none. So I appreciate everything they do, each of them in a different way.”
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