Morris leads Iowa State past Nevada in NCAA Tournament
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Monte Morris delivered another solid all-around performance. Deonte Burton, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas took turns coming up with big plays.
A little experience goes a long way this time of year.
Morris had 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and Iowa State outlasted Nevada 84-73 on Thursday night to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
“He’s the best point guard in the country,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “He’s a winner.”
Burton added 14 points and eight rebounds as the fifth-seeded Cyclones won for the 10th time in their last 11 games, building on their impressive run through the Big 12 Tournament. Mitrou-Long and Thomas had 13 points apiece.
Iowa State (24-10) will try for its third Sweet 16 appearance in four years when it takes on No. 4 seed Purdue on Saturday. It was Nevada’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in a decade, and the difference in experience was noticeable, especially during the Wolf Pack’s slow start.
“We lost to a team that’s really good,” coach Eric Musselman said. “I thought in the first half that their experience really showed. Their seniors played really well and that was the difference in the ballgame. We really struggled to score in the first half.”
Cameron Oliver scored 22 points for Nevada (28-7), which had won nine straight by an average of 15 points. Jordan Caroline had 20 points and eight rebounds, and Marcus Marshall finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump this time,” Oliver said.
It was a triumphant homecoming for Burton, Darrell Bowie and Donovan Jackson, three Milwaukee natives who have played a key role in Iowa State’s success this season. Jackson scored 12 points on a perfect shooting performance, and Bowie finished with eight points and five boards.
“That’s how you put on for your city,” Bowie said. “That’s what you call a home-court advantage. We just wanted to give the crowd a reason to get loud and be proud of us.”
Iowa State led by as many as 15 in the first half before Nevada got back in the game by rediscovering its shooting touch. The Wolf Pack used Caroline’s two foul shots and tip-in to close to 55-51 with 9:56 left, plenty of time for the Mountain West’s regular-season and tournament champions.
But the Cyclones responded with nine straight points. Burton started and finished the run with layups, and Thomas had a 3-pointer during the surge. Morris then helped Iowa State finish it off with seven free throws in the final 3 minutes.
“We want more,” Burton said. “This is one stepping stone until we get where we want to be, so we have to keep our focus until we get where we want to be.”
The Cyclones played in front of a mostly red-and-yellow-clad crowd about 5 1/2 hours from their campus in Ames, and their fans had plenty of reasons to cheer during a solid first half.
Burton, a former Milwaukee prep star who began his collegiate career with Marquette, turned up the electricity with a vicious left-handed dunk that made it 30-20 Cyclones with 4:24 left. Morris contributed eight points, six rebounds and four assists and Iowa State held Nevada to 30 percent shooting on its way to a 40-27 halftime lead.
“Their defense is pretty good,” Oliver said. “We wasn’t finishing at the rim. We can’t play catch-up ball with a team like that.”
Nevada: The Wolf Pack were never able to overcome their slow shooting start. They also shot 8 for 26 from 3-point range for the game.
Iowa State: The Cyclones had five players score in double figures and shot 56 percent from the field.
The Cyclones face the Boilermakers on Saturday night. Purdue advanced with an 80-70 victory against Vermont.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap