Iowa State guard Monte Morris scored his team’s final seven points of the first half Saturday, shifting the momentum in a tight game, and the 23rd-ranked Cyclones knocked off No. 11 West Virginia 80-74 to claim the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament championship.
It marked the third time in four years for the Cyclones (23-10) to cut down the nets at the Sprint Center after claiming the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Morris, a senior, has been a part of each of those celebrations.
He played a major role in Saturday’s finale, scoring a team-high 17 points and handing out three assists in helping ISU complete a sweep of its three games in Kansas City. Morris was selected as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“We’re at our best when I’m attacking and I was able to get in that zone,” said Morris, who wore the ceremonial trimmed net around his neck during the postgame news conference. “This feels great. We just need to step up to the challenge and build on this in the NCAA Tournament.”
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West Virginia (26-8) fell in the tournament championship game for a second consecutive season. The Mountaineers are expected to earn an at-large NCAA bid Sunday.
This feels great. We just need to step up to the challenge and build on this in the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa State guard Monte Morris
Iowa State, the team that defeated TCU in Friday’s semifinals, did not take its first lead until a three-point play by Darrell Bowie put ISU on top 23-22 with 5:11 remaining in the first half. The play began an 8-0 run and, after a short salvo by the Mountaineers, Iowa State turned things over to Morris.
He scored seven consecutive points for ISU over the final 1:49 of the first half, helping the Cyclones boost their margin to 35-29 at intermission. Iowa State never trailed again while improving its record to 9-1 in its last 10 games.
Deonte Burton (16 points, 5 rebounds), Matt Thomas (12 points, 5 rebounds) and Bowie (10 points, 6 rebounds) joined Morris as double-digit scorers for Iowa State. Jevon Carter, a member of the All-Big 12 tournament team, led West Virginia with 18 points.
Morris declared Saturday’s title special because it will be his last as a Cyclones player. But he said all three title runs have included the same essential element.
“I think we just lean on each other,” Morris said. “We’re loving and trusting in one another to make plays and we are playing with high energy. When you’ve got guys like that, and we all are pulling for each other, it’s easier to win games.”