By Rob Gray
AMES — Share more, win more.
It’s a desirable dual dynamic Iowa State point guard DeAndre Kane’s seen before — just not in college, until this season.
“High school, maybe,” said the 24-year-old fifth-year senior transfer from Marshall. “But here it’s great. Guys are unselfish. Coach (Fred Hoiberg) preaches about that before the game a lot: ‘Play for each other, have fun out there and share the ball.’ And that’s what we do.”
The No. 17 Cyclones (6-0) enter today’s 5 p.m. Big Four Classic matchup with Northern Iowa (3-4) at Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena on a selfless streak.
ISU assisted 28 times in 33 baskets in last Monday’s 99-70 thrashing of Auburn.
In the past two games, 75.3 percent of the team’s field goals have come because one or more Cyclones were willing to pass up a contested and/or low-percentage shot and find an open teammate.
“I think we’re a more patient team right now,” said Hoiberg, who is 0-2 as a coach against the Panthers. “We’re not just going down and jacking up the first shot. I think we did that too much early in the season last year.”
As for the Panthers, Hoiberg mentioned discipline as one of their long-standing strengths under coach Ben Jacobson.
“They do a great job of building a wall that’s hard to score on in transition,” Hoiberg said. “They’re playing a little faster offensively this year, giving (point) guard, (Deon) Mitchell, a lot of freedom. … They do a great job of controlling tempo.”
And lately UNI’s done an even better overall job against the Cyclones.
So two trends will clash today: The Panthers’ recent dominance of ISU (five wins in last six meetings), and Cyclone star Melvin Ejim’s string of command performances at Wells Fargo Arena.
Ejim’s scored 43 points in two games played in downtown Des Moines, but the Panthers are the only intra-state rival he hasn’t helped produce a win against.
“You always look back and think about the teams you can never beat and for me that’s UNI right now,” said Ejim, who’s averaging a team-high 17 points per game. “I’m going to be locked in and I’m going to try to get these guys locked in.”
That shouldn’t be a problem.
Ditto for sharing.
ISU leads the Big 12 with 20.5 assists per game and its assist-to-turnover ratio is a remarkable 3.1-to-1.
“Assists, that’s just what I like to do anyway,” said Kane’s backup, Monte Morris, who has dished out 16 of them to zero turnovers in the past two games. “It just makes me and my confidence feel that much better.”
Good vibes start with Kane (5.1 assists per game) and naturally spread through Morris and versatile forward Georges Niang (4.5 assists each).
The Cyclones’ collective acts of giving have translated to six players averaging double figures in scoring, including Kane, who both establishes and goes with the flow.“Getting my guys open shots, getting them good looks is what I’m supposed to do,” he said.