With Morris spearheading attack, WVU gets shot down again

AMES, Iowa — Benefiting from late-night shooting sessions this week, Iowa State point guard Monte Morris began trusting his stroke. It paid off with a 4-of-4 day from 3-point range and 19 points that sparked the No. 14 Cyclones to a 79-59 victory over No. 21 West Virginia on Saturday.

Morris contributed five assists, three steals and committed only a single turnover against the Mountaineers’ vaunted pressure defense.

“Just an unbelievable line,” said coach Fred Hoiberg after his floor leader helped Iowa State (18-6, 8-4 Big 12) pull away with a second-half surge.

Morris represented but one of West Virginia’s problems, however. Abdel Nader scored 15 points off the bench, while Jameel McKay added 12 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. Georges Niang scored 11 and Bryce Dejean-Jones added 10 as Iowa State shot 55 percent in winning its 21st consecutive home game.

All that firepower, Morris said, “just shows you what type of team we can be.”

Juwan Staten produced 16 points and seven assists for West Virginia (19-6, 7-5), which trailed by only four at halftime yet suffered its fourth consecutive blowout against a ranked team.

Chase Conner scored nine points, going 3-of-6 from 3-point range in the final half when he and Staten scored 20 of West Virginia’s 27 points. The Mountaineers managed only 9-of-29 shooting (31 percent) during the period.

“We haven’t made shots all year—this isn’t a revelation,”  said coach Bob Huggins. “And it’s not like we don’t get open shots, because we do. We just don’t make them.”

Niang did most of his damage after halftime, helping the Cyclones sweep the home-and-home season series.

Iowa State streaked out of the intermission on a 14-2 run that saw Niang with a fast-break dunk and a leaner. Iowa State rapidly turned a close game into 50-36 as Morris also sank back-to-back 3-pointers. The point guard had been 1-of-8 from long range in the previous five games.

“Today he shot the heck out of it,” Hoiberg said.

So did McKay, rather unexpectedly, from the foul line. He sank 8 of 9 after entering as a 50-percent free-throw shooter.

“It’s just about going up there with confidence,” McKay said. “When I’m making free throws it makes it that much harder for teams to guard us because they can’t just go out there and foul me.”

West Virginia attempted only 12 free throws to Iowa State’s 30.

Williams limited: Mountaineers forward Devin Williams, playing with his shooting hand heavily taped after spraining his right thumb, made a breathtaking block on a breakaway dunk attempt by McKay. But West Virginia’s second-leading scorer finished with four points and took only four shots.

After initially injuring the hand trying to draw a charge, Williams aggravated the thumb later in the first half on a box-out attempt.

“Both times it got pulled back and overextended,” he said.

Turnover turnaround: The Mountaineers’ exacerbated their offensive struggles by committing 19 turnovers, just one shy of their season high. It didn’t help that the 6-9 McKay was deflecting shots at the rim.

“He impacts the game in so many ways,” Hoiberg said. “Five blocks and countless others that he affected in there.”

The Cyclones trailed 21-19 after Gary Browne’s 3-pointer capped West Virginia’s 12-2 spurt. A late-half 3-pointer by guard Matt Thomas, answered by Browne’s 15-foot buzzer beater, left Iowa State ahead 36-32 at the break.

West Virginia committed 11 first-half turnovers, two more than it suffered in the entire first meeting against the Cyclones.

Defensive malady: After its previous three opponents combined to shoot 57 percent, West Virginia entered Saturday ranked last in the Big 12 and 303rd nationally in field-goal defense (45.8 percent). The Mountaineers have mitigated that somewhat by continuing to lead the country in steals (12.1) and forced turnovers (21.5).

3-point swing: The Cyclones, after sinking a season-best 14 of 29 from 3-point range in a 94-83 loss at Oklahoma on Monday, were 6-of-16 on Saturday. They lead the Big 12 in 3-pointers by a wide margin.

But it was WVU who lived from outside, going 9-of-29 on 3s. Staten and Browne made two each, joining Connor who was inserted with shoot-first instructions.

“Coach (Larry) Harrison tells me, ‘When in doubt shoot it, and stay in doubt,'” he said.

“Individually I’m happy I could give the team a lift and hit some shots, but it’s a team thing. I wish I could’ve done more. It was a disappointing day.”

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