Iowa State fans said goodbye to their senior class last month. They could get another chance this week, maybe with confetti falling on the Cyclones during a Big 12 Tournament trophy presentation.
“People were kind of sad that we had a senior night,” Iowa State senior Naz Mitrou-Long said Wednesday, “but I knew that it wasn’t really senior night.
“We have another couple of games at Hilton South.”
Hilton South is the Sprint Center, where the Cyclones won the 2014 and 2015 Big 12 Tournament titles in front of big Iowa State crowds. For Mitrou-Long, another championship this week would give him three Big 12 tourney titles in five years. Fellow senior guards Monte Morris and Matt Thomas are looking for their third in four years in Ames.
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“We just have to ride the wave and keep doing what we’ve been doing all year,” Mitrou-Long said. “This is the final chance, and you don’t get another chance.”
Morris was hurt last season and is coming off a left ankle injury but says he’s ready for the Cyclones’ Big 12 quarterfinal against Oklahoma State (20-11) at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. No. 23-ranked Iowa State (20-10) won 96-86 at Stillwater in January and 86-83 on the Cyclones’ senior night Feb. 28.
Last year in the Big 12 quarterfinals, Iowa State lost 79-76 to Oklahoma, which got 39 points from Buddy Hield. Iowa State senior Georges Niang scored 31, but Morris could only muster five points in 38 agonizing minutes.
Morris said Wednesday that an AC joint injury in his right shoulder affected his shot as he could only make 1 of 9 from the floor. Morris said a pregame injection hit the wrong spot in his arm and he had to get another shot, but it didn’t help.
“People thought I was nursing an injury. It was more than that,” Morris said. “I cried, just knowing I couldn’t help those seniors.”
He felt better during Wednesday’s shootaround at the Sprint Center. Morris is averaging 16.2 points per game and leads the NCAA in assist-turnover ratio at 6.17-1.
“It feels good to be able to shoot a rhythm jump shot in this building because I didn’t shoot one since my sophomore year,” he said.
“We want it big time … having a chance to go three out of four is just remarkable and that’s definitely leaving our mark at this university and in this tournament. We’re not just down here just to be here and show up. We’re here to win it.”
Iowa State has a fourth senior, Marquette transfer Deonte Burton, who arrived last season. Regardless of whether the Cyclones take home the trophy Saturday, their seniors have made an impact on a program headed to its sixth NCAA Tournament next week.
“These guys have done a lot of great things,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “Our motto with those four seniors this summer was, ‘Leave your jersey in a better place.’ I think they’ve done that.”