Hot-shooting Long a not-so-secret weapon for Cyclones

Baylor coach: 'If it's a big shot, you might as well count it'

Published: March 20 2014 | 6:35 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:56 am in

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Iowa State sharpshooter Naz Long is so hot, his roommate, Georges Niang, crafted a joke about it.

Actually Niang jokes about most everything — but when it comes to Long’s 3-point shooting over the past five games, no one on the other side’s laughing.

“Yeah, wow,” said Niang, one of the Cyclones’ so-called “big three” when it comes to scoring output. “Should I just start running back on defense? It seems to be going in a lot for him.”

Long’s drilled 13 of his last 21 long-range attempts.

He hit two buzzer-beaters that made overtime wins over Oklahoma State possible.

And he drained 4 of 6 in last Saturday’s 74-65 Big 12 Championship triumph over Baylor.

That memory prompted Bears Coach Scott Drew to say the following Thursday:

“Naz Long,”he said, “if it’s a big shot, you’d might as well count it.”

That makes the sophomore from Mississauga, Ontario very much an un-secret weapon in third-seeded ISU’s 8:50 p.m. matchup with 14-seed North Carolina Central.

But it hasn’t been nothing but net for Long all season.

Shooters rarely fully eschew struggles, and Long’s came during a five-game span that included three of the Cyclones’ losses.

Long shot 2 of 16 during that stretch, but the frigidity didn’t lead to timidity.

“It’s just shots weren’t falling,” said Long, who played a season-high 31 minutes against Baylor. “I was shooting the ball the same way. It’s just my rhythm was a little off. You can’t let that knock your confidence, because if you lose your confidence, you’re going to lose your game all-around.”

Where’s that game at now?

Still hot — even from NBA distance at the San Antontio Spurs’ practice facility.

“It’s falling,” Long said. “More makes than misses and that’s always a good thing.”

As for Drew’s praise. …

“Coming from him, I’m not really surprised,” Long said. “He came into our locker room after the Big 12 Championship and he was just like, ‘I’d like to congratulate you guys. I hope we see each other in the Final Four.’ So for him to give me a compliment like that, he’s a great guy.”

STILL CONNECTED: Melvin Ejim’s phone blew up after he scored a Big 12-record 48 points in last month’s win over TCU. One of the congratulatory texts? Courtesy of the guy who recruited him to Iowa State, former Cyclones coach Greg McDermott, who left for Creighton before Ejim joined the team, but remains a close friend.

“(He’s) been a great mentor,” said Ejim, the Big 12 player of the year. “Me and Doug (McDermott) are really close and I think that just having a relationship with his father as well as him, it was just easy. … We’ve developed a relationship that’s been with me for four years and that’s the great thing about it.”

TV TIME: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Craig Sager will call ISU’s game against North Carolina Central for TNT.

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