Iowa State guard Monte Morris approaching own NCAA record
AMES, Iowa (AP) It's what senior point guard Monte Morris hasn't done for Iowa State that has made him so special.
For the third time in four years, Morris is leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio despite playing in one of the fastest offenses in the country.
Morris is averaging 5.8 assists for every miscue, which is nearly a full assist better than the player ranked second, Purdue's P.J. Thompson.
In Big 12 play, Morris is turning it over just once every 50 minutes. He is on pace to become the first Division I player since 1996-97 to average more than five assists with just one turnover while playing at least 30 minutes a game.
''His assist-to-turnover (success) just comes from understanding and feel for the game and his high I.Q. Great passer, great team guy,'' Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.
Morris's ability to protect the basketball at a record clip is a major reason why Iowa State (16-9, 8-5 Big 12) is surging ahead of Saturday home game against TCU (17-9, 6-7).
From the moment Morris arrived in Ames, his knack for keeping the ball away from opponents has set records.
Morris didn't start right away for the Cyclones, who had brought in graduate transfer De'Andre Kane to run then-coach Fred Hoiberg's offense. But Morris was so good that Hoiberg put him in the lineup and shifted Kane to more of a shooting guard role. Morris set the NCAA mark at 4.79-to-1 and Iowa State made the Sweet 16.
Morris led the nation again as a sophomore (4.63-to-1) and finished third last season (4.23-to-1) despite adjusting to a new coach in Prohm and a bigger burden to score.
After flirting with leaving for the NBA Draft, he came back focused more on creating his own shot in non-conference play. His turnovers ticked up slightly.
Once Big 12 play started, Morris buckled down: In 13 league games, Morris has made 79 assists and turned it over just 10 times - while playing in a system designed to push the ball up the floor as quickly as possible.
''For him to be in league play like he is, that's remarkable - especially the way that he's getting his assists,'' Prohm said. ''It's off passing, it's finding guys in transition, or it's in half court. It's a lot of jump shots, he's finding guys for jump shots and open shots and making the right reads.''
In Morris's last six games, he has dished out 33 assists and committed just two turnovers in 220 minutes.
''I trust me teammates, and they reward me by finishing around the rim and making 3s for me,'' Morris said. ''Just knowing where your guys are going to be on the floor (is crucial) ... we have a feel for where guys rotate, so that makes things a lot easier.''
Morris, a preseason All-America at point guard, is also averaging a career-high 15.9 points per game and is just two steals shy of breaking former NBA star Jeff Hornacek's school mark.
''He's just a smart player. His handle is great. He makes smart decisions, and we have a great offense to complement that,'' senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long said.
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This story corrects TCU's record.