Brothers square off as MSM visits Iowa State
When No. 24 Iowa State hosts Mount St. Mary's on Monday night at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, the unofficial promotion will be family reunion night.
Cyclones senior Nazareth Mitrou-Long will face Mountaineers sophomore Elijah Long in a matchup of older brother vs. younger brother. About 20 family and friends, hailing mostly from their home of Mississauga, Ontario, are expected to be part of a sellout crowd.
“It's going to be a neat thing,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said of the siblings' meeting. “I'm glad we could make this happen for both of them.”
Mitrou-Long's team is a heavy favorite, and for good reason. While the Cyclones opened their season Friday night with a 113-71 rout of Savannah State, Mount St. Mary's absorbed an 87-59 pounding that evening at No. 20 West Virginia.
The brothers play key roles for their teams. Mitrou-Long recorded 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in his opener, making a bid for the fifth triple-double in program history. Long contributed 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in his first game of the season.
Mitrou-Long's return to health is a key factor for Iowa State, which should threaten Kansas and West Virginia for the Big 12 title. Mitrou-Long played in just eight games last year before persistent pain from offseason hip surgery shut down his season and forced him to take a medical redshirt.
“He's our emotional leader,” Prohm said of Mitrou-Long. “He's full speed all the time. You'd rather slow a guy down than have to speed one up.”
Not much was slowing down the Cyclones on Friday night. Although Prohm wasn't thrilled with their 20 turnovers, they shot better than 55 percent from the floor and registered 31 assists, their best single-game total since 1994.
Preseason All-America selection Monte Morris recorded 11 helpers and 21 points in 26 minutes without a turnover, the 37th game without a miscue in his career. Morris is on track to join Jeff Hornacek as the only players in school history with 1,000 points, 600 assists and 200 steals. He needs only 38 assists and 25 steals to get there.
While Iowa State will look to fine-tune such things as ball security and defense, the Mountaineers are merely making the next stop on a brutal nine-game road trip to start their season. Coach Jamion Christian is looking at the journey as an opportunity to make needed improvements before getting into Northeast Conference play.
“We're always big believers in challenging our team,” he said after the loss at West Virginia. “If we can learn from these experiences along the way, we're going to be right where we need to be at.
“You know, we're not in the Big 12, so everything for us in our league is going to be measured at the end of the season. We've always done a great job at getting better at it. We'll use this experience here and this road trip to really continue to improve.”
Mount St. Mary's will be meeting the Cyclones for the first time. The Mountaineers were tabbed to finish fourth in the NEC preseason coaches' poll.