AMES — Fred Hoiberg didn’t talk to his players about it but behind closed doors, Iowa State’s coaches staff saw last Saturday’s home game against Kansas State as a “must-win.”
Of course, the Cyclones took care of business at home and won the contest 81-75, but with a road trip to Kansas, a home tilt with Oklahoma and a trip to Oklahoma State on the horizon, Iowa State simply couldn’t have afforded to drop its fourth game in a row.
“It was the staff and kind of discussed within that we had to have that one when you look at what we’ve got coming up,” Hoiberg said during his weekly Monday press conference. “Two of the three top teams on the road and then Oklahoma at home, who is playing great basketball right now. Kansas State is a team that was playing well.”
This is life in the Big 12.
Best team in the country?
An argument can be made that the Big 12 is the best conference in the country this season. Iowa State’s next opponent, Kansas, is 6-0 in league play. So does that make Bill Self’s young and supremely talented Jayhawks the best team in America?
“I don’t know if I can name anybody who is playing better than them right now,” Hoiberg said. “When you have the talent and skill-set of their players, and now they are confident, that’s a tough team to be. Obviously their record at home speaks for itself. It is a tall order for anybody to go in there and come out with a win, especially when they are playing the way that they are.”
Kansas defeated Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum 77-70 on Jan. 13. Of course, we will have plenty more on the rematch later on this week at CycloneFanatic.com so stay tuned.
Hoiberg glows when talking about his true freshman point guard, Monte Morris, who has now dished out 53 assists to only 11 turnovers so far this season. Morris has seen his playing time rise significantly over the last few weeks and was key in Saturday’s win over Kansas State.
“I just feel like I have to have him on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “I look at our numbers and our offensive efficiency report, he was the best in both categories against Kansas State and that’s pretty impressive for a kid like that, that he can have that.”
This player-coach relationship is more than just about stats though. It’s about trust.
“He is a guy who is so important to have on the floor late in games because I know he is going to be in the right spot defensively,” Hoiberg said. “He is not going to turn the ball over. When you have a freshman who can do that, that is a great luxury to have.”
Now that Morris is playing so well, and often, is there a chance that Hoiberg will insert the freshman into Iowa State’s starting lineup? That’s doubtful.
“Usually when he comes in, he plays the rest of the half, at least in a lot of cases he does,” Hoiberg said. “Shoot, he had a couple of shots against Kansas State that rimmed in and out from three. He is not afraid. That’s the thing I love about Monte. I could see that when he was in high school winning state championships.”