By Alex Halsted
(247 SPORTS) – Iowa State fans have seen Monte Morris perform in the biggest moments, so the second-year NBA player’s performance Thursday on national television likely won’t come as a major surprise.
As Morris’ minutes continue to increase during his second season with Denver, he scored a career-high 20 points to go with seven assists and three steals in an eventual 121-114 loss to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Through five games this season, Morris is averaging 9.4 points, 4.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game as the team’s second point guard.
“Me and coach [Mike] Malone had a talk before the Golden State game,” Morris told the Denver Post on Thursday night. “He said he forgets it’s my third official NBA game. So he’s just gotta let me go out there and play free and play not to make mistakes. After we had that conversation, I took it upon myself to just be aggressive and live with the results.”
“It was fun. I like big moments. I like games like this. The crowd’s into it, the intensity is high.”
Morris ended his four-year Iowa State career with a laundry list of accolades, mostly notably being the school’s all-time assists leader while also holding the career mark for the school’s best assist-to-turnover ratio. In fact, Morris holds four of the top seven single-season assist-to-turnover ratio marks in NCAA history, though that data on that particular stat extends back to only 2008.
Morris is showing off that trait early in his NBA career. The second-year point guard has had seven assists in each of the last two games without a turnover and has only two turnovers in five games this season, ranking second in the NBA early this season with an 11-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“He’s a true point guard,” teammate Paul Millsap told the Denver Post. “He knows how to control the games. He knows how to get other people involved. He knows the flow of the game.”
Morris, who is Iowa State’s winningest player, went 6-of-9 from the field (2-of-2 from 3) and made all six free throws in scoring his career-high 20 points Thursday. He has logged 27 and 29 minutes in the last two games for the Nuggets, scoring double-figures in both.
Iowa State has five former players on NBA contracts this 2018-19 season including Morris with Denver, Georges Niang and Naz Mitrou-Long with Utah and Abdel Nader and Deonte Burton with Oklahoma City. Morris, Niang and Nader are on full NBA contracts while Mitrou-Long and Burton are on two-way deals that can send them back and forth between the NBA and G-League.
Niang is averaging 3.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per game through five games this season with a season-high eight points against Golden State. Burton has appeared in two games for the Thunder this season, scoring five points.
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