ISU's Monte Morris hungry, healthy

Cyclone guard wants another Big 12 basketball title

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The pain wouldn’t allow Monte Morris to fall asleep.

Days after suffering an AC joint injury in his shoulder last year in the season finale at Kansas, the Iowa State point guard was up most of the night on the phone with his mom talking about his frustration. It was more than just soreness.

A bum right shoulder hampered Morris in his first Big 12 tournament loss ever in the quarterfinals against Oklahoma, where he went 1-for-9 from the field with five points. He couldn’t shoot, dribble or pass without being reminded he wasn’t at full strength.

“People don’t know this ... I got shot in the wrong spot and it numbed up my nerve,” Morris said. “I got shot by my nerve, so I couldn’t feel the ball.

“The first 14 minutes of that game, if you re-watch it, I air-balled a layup, I didn’t have feeling in my hand, so I had to get re-shot at halftime.”

Morris was able to help push Iowa State to a Sweet 16 berth last season, but still felt something was missing for him individually. He’s out to rectify that this year and help the Cyclones collect their third Big 12 tournament title in four years.

Four-seed Iowa State faces five-seed Oklahoma State on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. (ESPN2).

“That’s definitely leaving our mark at this university and at this tournament,” Morris said. “We’re not just down here just to be here and show up. We’re down here to win it.”

The senior from Flint, Mich., almost had another scare last week when he tweaked his ankle in the second half at West Virginia. He was hobbled a bit afterward, but didn’t exit the game and said it’s in “the going away stage right now.”

No. 24 Iowa State (20-10, 12-6) will need Morris to be every bit as good as he’s been all season in its matchup with Oklahoma State (20-11, 9-9). Both teams caught some fire at the end of the regular season and have matched up well across the board the last several years.

The Cyclones swept the season series for the fourth year in a row, including a three-point win last week in Hilton Coliseum. Oklahoma State has lost nine games in a row to Iowa State by an average of 4.7 points per game — two games have gone to extra time.

“This could be a Sweet 16 matchup, really, when you look at it,” said Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm. “You’ve got two really good teams.

“Whether we beat them twice, split or got swept it doesn’t matter. It’s about what happens (Thursday) at 11:30.”

Two things have dictated the recent history of this matchup — guard play and well-executed offense. KenPom.com ranks Oklahoma State No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency nationally and slots Iowa State at No. 17.

Point guard Jawun Evans is the catalyst in the Cowboys’ offense, averaging 18.7 points and 6.3 assists per game. A matchup with Morris, who averages 16.2 points and 6.2 assists, puts high-level point guard play in full view.

“I’m the biggest Monte Morris fan there is,” said Oklahoma State Coach Brad Underwood. “A guy that doesn’t turn the ball over and makes players better.

“(Morris and Evans) do things a little bit differently, yet their games are all about making their teammates better. It’s very rare you lead a team in scoring and lead a team in assists. In my book, that’s the definition of a great player.”

l Comments: montzdylan@gmail.com

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