AMES — Matt Thomas looks like a completely different basketball player compared to three weeks ago.
Iowa State’s freshman marksman went 3-for-5 from long range during Saturday’s 81-75 win over Oklahoma and as a result, played the best game of his career.
“I thought that was his best overall game,” Fred Hoiberg said. “You can see the difference. He is just rising up without even thinking. When he’s got a guy a couple of feet off of him, he’ll jab-step and shoot it. That is great to see. That’s what you want out of your shooters, is to go up and play without a conscious almost.”
Thomas played 33 minutes in Iowa State’s 16th win of the season. He has scored in double figures in two of the last three games.
“I am feeling more comfortable and confident in my overall game, not just my shot,” Thomas said. “If you are playing good defense, it’s going to translate to offense. If you’re hitting shots on offense, it’s going to translate to defense. When you hit shots, you’re feeling good about yourself and you want to go down on defense and score again. It definitely translates.”
Thomas now has 32 3-pointers on the season, which is tied for fourth on Iowa State’s all-time freshman list. He is averaging 7.0 points per game on the season, while shooting 36 percent from 3-point range.
Hoiberg changes lineup
After playing 35 minutes on Saturday, freshman point guard Monte Morris is now averaging just over 29 minutes per game since Big 12 play began on Jan. 4. Deservedly, he received the first start of his career against the Sooners.
“I wanted to try to improve our start,” Hoiberg said. “I wanted to move Naz (Long) back to the bench to see if we could get him back in a rhythm. He and Matt (Thomas) coming off together on the wings, I like that. You’ve got two shooters coming off of the bench. The big thing was that I wanted to try something because obviously we weren’t getting off to good starts.”
Morris and Thomas produced, scoring 12 and 13 points respectively. Unfortunately for Iowa State, Long did not snap out of his recent slump. Long was 0-for-3 in the game and scored zero points in the win.
Up next, Stillwater
It’s been 18 years since Iowa State last won a basketball game in Stillwater, Okla.
“We have had three great opportunities over the last couple of years,” Hoiberg said. “I think one overtime loss and the other two were buzzer beaters. It’s a tough place to win.”
Iowa State should expect to see a focused Cowboy basketball team, one that shockingly lost to a Baylor team that was playing without Kenny Cherry on Saturday.
Iowa State and Oklahoma State both share 4-4 records in Big 12 play.
The game will tip at 8 p.m. and be featured on ESPN’s Big Monday.