AMES — Naz Mitrou-Long’s return to Hilton Coliseum was a dominant one.
In his first game back after sitting out most of last season, the 6-foot-4-inch senior scored 24 points and knocked down six 3-pointers to lead Iowa State to a 101-57 exhibition win over Sioux Falls on Sunday at Hilton Coliseum.
“I think I’ve been telling everybody for I don’t even know how many months now that this is the best that I’ve felt,” Mitrou-Long said. “I just have to come out every night and prove it defensively and offensively. We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes rehabbing everyday and practicing hard everyday. Busting our tails everyday and I’m right in there at practice, no reps off. I feel really good.”
The Cyclones jumped out to a quick lead when senior guard Matt Thomas connected from downtown, the first of 15 ISU 3-pointers, only 16 seconds into the game. Iowa State never trailed while holding Sioux Falls to just 32.4 percent shooting from the floor.
ISU’s defensive effort was impressive all night against the overmatched Cougars by forcing 20 turnovers. The Cyclones didn’t allow a point in the paint until Sioux Falls’ first possession of the second half, in large part to senior forward Merrill Holden, who blocked four shots in the first half.
The Cyclones’ versatility allowed them to play an effective switching man-to-man defense, with some three-quarter court 1-2-2 press mixed in, to keep the Cougars on their toes.
It became clear very quickly how overmatched the Cougars were, which makes learning anything from the game difficult for Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm.
“Some of these games, you just have to let them play and let their ability take over. Really kind of preach to them about spacing. There was a couple possessions where, even if we’re not really running anything, if we can just be in our spacing spots and set a ball-screen or play off penetration and kick, that’s fine. That’s basketball,” Prohm said. “The biggest thing we’ll see is, was our positioning right defensively? Was the ball-pressure right? A lot more defense. I thought our offense pace in the first half was good. I like seeing that live. Defensively, I think we can learn a lot from the tape defensively, but I think only so much.”
Senior guard Deonte Burton scored 16 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds while Thomas added 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Freshman forward Solomon Young was the last Cyclone in double-figures scoring with 12 points.
Preseason All-American point guard Monte Morris scored eight points, on 4-of-9 shooting, with five rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes.
“Naz shot the ball at a high-level tonight. He had great confidence,” Prohm said. “Those guys, they’ve earned the right to make shots. They’ve put a lot of time in the gym. When Matt and Naz and those guys miss shots, that’s more of a surprise than when they make them because they can really shoot at a high-level.”
Iowa State will host Savannah State in the season-opener on Friday night at 7 at Hilton Coliseum.