ISU's Monte Morris determined to assist in more than assists

Rob Gray
Published: February 17 2014 | 3:48 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:46 am in
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AMES — Iowa State freshman guard Monte Morris can point with pride to his gleaming Big 12-leading assists-to-turnover ratio of 5.2-to-1.

But another stat is rising up the poised 18-year-old’s list of achievements — and that’s rebounding, where Morris matched a single-game career high with seven in Saturday’s 70-64 win over Texas Tech.

“I know we can start our fast break a little bit faster when I rebound the ball, so why not do that, instead of me leaking out and trying to get something in transition?” said Morris, who will need to boost ISU’s backboard-based effort when the conference’s best rebounding team, No. 17 Texas, rolls into Hilton Coliseum for Tuesday's 6 p.m. Big 12 matchup. “I can grab a rebound and everybody else can run and I can find them in transition and get a rebound and an assist all in one.”

Makes perfect sense for the 19th-ranked Cyclones (19-5, 7-5), who seeks their third straight home win over the Longhorns (20-5, 9-3).

But how to do it against a team that outrebounded West Virginia by 15 in an 87-71 rout Saturday in Austin?

That task obviously starts up front, with ISU’s Melvin Ejim, Dustin Hogue and DeAndre Kane aiming to neutralize Texas big men Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley.

Ejim and Hogue rank second and third in the Big 12 with 8.6 and 8.5 rebounds per game, respectively.

Kane’s the league’s top rebounding guard, at 6.6.

Holmes and Ridley combine for 15.3 boards per game — and totaled 18 in the Longhorns’ 86-76 over the Cyclones at home.

“There was a stretch where they really took control,” Ejim said.

One of those stretches came late, when Texas crafted a 17-5 run to turn a 58-56 lead into a 67-58 cushion.

And during that span, Ridley and Holmes combined for a modest three rebounds, while guards Demarcus Holland, Kendal Yancy and Javan Felix totaled six.

“They really crash it from all areas on the floor,” ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “If you don’t check the guy coming in from that back side on a shot from the wing, they’re going to get it because they’re athletic enough, they’re quick enough and they’ve got great instincts on the glass.”

Kane’s prowess on the boards, coupled with Morris’s greater emphasis on them, makes the Cyclones well-equipped to cancel out the backcourt side of the second-chance equation.

ISU has outrebounded three of its last four foes after being beaten on the glass in eight of the previous nine games.

“We were struggling a lot in rebounding and we kind of put all of that on our bigs,” Morris said. “You’re going to see me continuing being on the boards helping out and making sure everybody else is on the boards, too, because when they see me in there, that’s going to give them confidence to get in there, too.”

Speaking of confidence: An extra measure goes to the winner.

Texas would further cement its second-place position in the conference standings with a victory.

The Cyclones would move into a third-place tie with Oklahoma.

“This is a huge one for us,” ISU forward Georges Niang said.

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