LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida – The stat sheet, eye test and scouting report state the obvious.
Iowa State starts and relies on four guards, although 6-foot-5, 250-pound Deonte Burton has 22 pounds on Gonzaga 6-9 forward Johnathan Williams. GU knows the Cyclones present challenges off the bounce and beyond the 3-point line.
“It’ll be the classic (matchup),” Zags coach Mark Few said of Sunday’s showdown for the AdvoCare Invitational championship. “They’ll go small and they’re very comfortable playing that way and they’re very difficult to guard.”
Then there’s the flip side.
“Hopefully we’re going to do what we do,” Few added. “We’ll see how it turns out.”
Williams and guards Josh Perkins and Silas Melson led the way as GU passed its first 40-minute test of the young season Friday. After a shaky first half, the Zags executed and showed poise in dominating the second half against Florida in the semifinals.
“We dug deep as a team collectively, took care of ball in the second half and we did what it took to get the ‘W’,” Perkins said.
They’ll need more of the same against the 21st-ranked Cyclones, led by preseason Big 12 Conference player of the year Monte Morris and backcourt mates Naz Mitrou-Long, Matt Thomas and Burton.
Morris had 20 points and nine rebounds as Iowa State barely escaped Indiana State’s upset bid in the opener. Morris was quiet in Friday’s impressive win over Miami but Burton poured in 21 points and Thomas and Mitrou-Long combined for 21 more.
Morris has made 91 straight starts. He has a career 4.5 assists-to-turnover ratio. Burton was the Big 12 newcomer of the year last season after transferring from Marquette.
Thomas is sixth on ISU’s all-time list with 176 3-pointers and Mitrou-Long is seventh with 171.
Freshman forward Solomon Young (8.7 points, 5.3 rebounds) is sidelined with a cracked bone in his hand.
Iowa State (5-0) has been ranked in the AP poll for 59 straight weeks, third longest behind Kansas and Arizona. The Cyclones have made five straight NCAA tournaments.
“A veteran crew that knows how to win, that’s won a lot of games and has been in a lot of big games,” Few said.
Gonzaga is trying to go 3 for 3 in Orlando. The Zags won tournament titles here in 2008 and 2012.
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