AMES — Only one Iowa State men’s basketball player has scored in double figures in all five games this season.
All-Big 12 forward Craig Brackins? Good guess. Wrong.
Preseason conference newcomer of the year Marquis Gilstrap? Try again.
Mr. 10 3-pointers against Drake Lucca Staiger? Nope.
It is Scott Christopherson, who after sitting out a year since transferring from Marquette after the 2007-08 season, has turned into a secret weapon. The 6-3 guard is averaging is 11.4 points off the bench and has been a major reason ISU (5-0) is unbeaten and on a roll heading into today’s Chicago Invitational opener against Saint Louis (4-0).
Tipoff from the UIC Pavilion is 5 p.m.
“I’m coming in trying to help this team win,” Christopherson said. “If that means filling it up, I’m going to fill it up. If that means getting the ball to guys that are hot, that’s what I’ll do. When I’m open I’m going to try and make a play.”
He and Staiger form a good 3-point shooting tandem.
Christopherson has buried 11 of 17 shots (64.7 percent) from beyond the arc. Staiger has hit 18 of 36 (50 percent), and ISU ranks second nationally in 3-point shooting percentage.
“Having one of the most talented players in the country down low makes everybody else’s job easier,” Christopherson said.
He’s talking about Brackins, an All-America candidate. Brackins, who leads the team in scoring at 17.2 points per game, is perfectly willing to give up the ball to capable shooters.
“If (teams) are going to keep worrying about me and keep doubling, we are going to make them pay for it,” he said.
Christopherson, however, has proved he’s more than instant offense. Last week in ISU’s 90-70 win at Drake, the former Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin helped shut down Bulldogs guard Josh Young the final 25 minutes.
Young had nine points in the opening seven minutes. He finished with 11 and had no points and only three shot attempts in the second half, largely because of Christopherson’s tight defense.
“I think people got a taste tonight that the kid is more than a shooter,” Coach Greg McDermott said.
Christopherson, a sophomore, spent last season practicing with the team and working on his shot.
Since the Sukup Basketball Complex opened this summer, Christopherson has spent a lot of extra time there.
“He is wearing out the shooting machine,” McDermott said. “He is absolutely over there all the time.”
Christopherson is quickly becoming a fan favorite at Hilton Coliseum.
“I’m just trying to bring whatever the team needs off the bench,” Christopherson said. “If one night it is trying to keep the ball out of the hands of the other team’s best player, I’ll do that. When there are opportunities (offensively), I’ll try to make those.”
-By Eric Petersen, Correspondent