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Basketball

WILLIAMS: Monte Morris key to NCAA run

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KANSAS CITY — Here is the best way I can sum up the 2015-16 Iowa State basketball season. Everything has yet to click at the same time. 

Early in the year, the Cyclones had to learn to play without its emotional leader, Naz Mitrou-Long.

Then, Jameel McKay seemed to lose his mind for a period of time, so there was that drama to deal with.

Now that March is here, McKay is playing some of the best basketball of his career and Monte Morris’ shoulder isn’t right.

That’s why I’m starting to change my tone when it comes to Iowa State and the NCAA Tournament. For weeks, I’ve been confident that when the grind of the Big 12 comes to an end, Iowa State being the bad matchup that it is (for most teams) would find a way (on the back of the great Georges Niang) to advance to the second weekend.

That was under the assumption though that the most consistent college point guard I have ever seen would recover from his recent “slump,” or injury, or whatever the heck is going on.

Morris went 1-for-9 with two assists in Thursday’s 79-76 Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal loss to Oklahoma.

There is some good and bad to that.  

The good: Without production from an All-Big 12 point guard, Iowa State was within three points of beating the No. 6 team in the country on a neutral floor on a night where Buddy Hield went nuts and scored 39 points. (The same can be said for last Saturday’s loss at No. 1 Kansas, a game that Iowa State maybe should have won.)

The bad: Iowa State can’t beat elite teams without Morris playing at the level we have come to expect from him. Matt Thomas, Abdel Nader and Deonte Burton are all capable second scoring options, but none of them are consistent. You can’t count on those guys. 

Over the last five games, Morris has gone 14-for-46 from the field – that’s a 30 percent mark for a guy whose field goal percentage is at 49 percent on the year. Problem is, his ridiculous assist-to-turnover ratio is human these days (2-to-1) during that span – not the gaudy 4 or 5-to-1 number that we are used to. 

Will the week off be enough to get Morris’ body right? 

Let’s hope so.

Georges Niang is the G.O.A.T., but Batman needed Robin to defeat the Joker.