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Basketball

Why Fred Hoiberg saw a big game from Matt Thomas coming

AMES — Dating back to his freshman season, we’ve all heard time and time again about how confidence is what makes Matt Thomas tick.

After all, isn’t that the case with most shooters?

Prior to Iowa State’s 63-61 victory over Oklahoma State on Tuesday night, Thomas was a disappointing 12-for-41 from 3-point range on the season. In his last six games, the sophomore was a glacial 3-for-22 from downtown. Thomas only played 10 minutes in Saturday’s loss to South Carolina.

Rewind the clock to after Monday’s practice when a guy who knows a thing or two about shooting, Fred Hoiberg, hit the gym with his slumping sophomore.

“He shot 30 shots and he made 29 of them, and he was pissed,” Hoiberg said. “I said, ‘Matt, you just made 29 out of 30 shots. Now go home.’ He kind of looked at me funny and I said, ‘Get out of here. Leave while you are feeling somewhat good about your shot and yourself.’” 

When Thomas arrived to Iowa State’s shoot around before Tuesday’s game, Hoiberg saw a player with renewed energy on the floor. Thomas felt good and it carried over to Iowa State’s Big 12 opener where he served as a sparkplug for a frigid basketball team. 

With 2:29 to play in the first half, Iowa State was 0-of-7 from 3-point range. Combine that with the 1-of-18 mark that the Cyclones uncharacteristically recorded against South Carolina and the Big 12’s top scoring offense had missed 24 of 25 attempts from long range. 

Woof.

This is where fittingly, Thomas snapped the streak and hit a contested three from the left corner. Just over a minute later, he hit another. All was right in the world again as the Cyclones were making their threes.

“The kid works so hard and puts so much pressure on himself to be as good as he can be,” teammate Georges Niang said. “It was fitting that he broke the streak like that and it was a tough one in the corner. I zipped it to him and it was nothing but net. I don’t expect anything else from him.”

As far as the long ball goes, the pair was it for Thomas but they sure did come at a critical time. He ended the night 2-of-3 from long range but along with Niang, had the second highest point total of the night for Iowa State at 10. 

Hoiberg’s final message to his young shooter: Sometimes, less is more.

“I shot with him a little after practice for about five minutes,” Hoiberg said. “Matt is usually on the floor for an hour.”