Iowa State has caught the nation’s attention just in time for its showdown with Texas.
Iowa State pulled off a stunning 92-89 victory over No. 3 Kansas in overtime on Feb. 4, snapping a 51-game home winning streak for the Jayhawks.
“I think we already had a great deal of respect of them already, but what they did at Kansas (was impressive),” head coach Shaka Smart said. “They had it on in the bus when we were driving back from TCU. It was really impressive going in there and winning. Nobody does it. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit for going in there and playing with a lot of poise.”
The Cyclones were led by the play of their senior guards Nazareth Mitrou-Long, Monte Morris and Deonte Burton. The trio combined for 76 points and a whopping 16 three-pointers in the upset win.
The group of guards have been performing at a high level all season. Each player is averaging at least 14 points on the year, and each has demonstrated the ability to work as the focal point of the Cyclone offense.
Iowa State rolled through Texas in the team’s first meeting in Ames, Iowa, overwhelming the Longhorns with three-point shooting and stingy defense en route to a 79-70 victory. Burton led the charge against the Longhorns back in January. The senior scorched the Texas defense for 27 points and was incredibly efficient, shooting 12-of-17 from the field.
The 6-foot-5 guard presents a matchup nightmare for most teams. Smart’s team will have its hands full yet again.
“He’s a tough matchup, and I’ll be honest with you, we don’t have a guy like that [on our team] that we can put on him,” Smart said. “(He’s) as good as an example in our league of a hybrid between a guy who plays with a lot of power and of a guy who has a lot of skill, particularly scoring the ball from outside and putting the ball on the floor.”
Another key matchup for the Longhorns will be the defensive assignment of sophomore guard Kerwin Roach on Monte Morris. The senior guard for the Cyclones is one of the premier playmakers in the Big 12, ranking first in the conference in assists and fourth in scoring.
Roach has been a solid defender for Texas this season, leading the team in steals. But the guard struggled to contain sophomore guard Alex Robinson in Saturday’s contest against TCU. Robinson finished with 17 points and dished out a game-high eight assists.
Smart recognized how important Roach’s role is and said it is important for the sophomore to shake off the last game.
“When [Roach] has a clear mind that’s not clouded with anything else, he’s really good,” Smart said. “When he’s frustrated or upset — sometimes you can see by the look on his face — it’s really hard for anybody to be good that way.”
Iowa State sits tied for third in the Big 12 standings and holds an overall record of 14-8 (6-4 conference). The Cyclones continue to put together a decent resume for the NCAA tournament and look to keep the momentum rolling with a second victory over Texas tonight.
Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at the Frank Erwin Center.