AMES – Three-point shooting is supposed to be one of Iowa State’s biggest question marks in 2013-14.
Naz Long was the answer in the opener.
Long, starting in place of the injured Melvin Ejim, hit eight 3s en route to a career-high 26 points and Iowa State pounded UNC-Wilmington 95-62 on Sunday
Georges Niang had 16 points and Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane added 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for the Cyclones, (1-0), who cruised to their 16th straight win in a home opener.
Iowa State hit 15 3s – two shy of the school record set last year against Kansas – and closed the first half on a 38-9 run. Long had six of them in the first half, becoming the first Iowa State player since 2008 to accomplish that feat.
“It’s something that coach (Fred) Hoiberg always instills in us. If you’re feeling it, you step up and you knock it down,” Long said.
Iowa State led the nation in 3s made a year ago. But the loss of guards Korie Lucious, Chris Babb and Tyrus McGee left some wondering from where the Cyclones would get their perimeter shooting in 2013-14.
Long, a reserve who hit just 5 3-pointers a year ago, gave Iowa State all it needed from the 3-point line in the first half.
Long hit 5 straight 3s to end the half and opened the second half with one from the corner to make it 55-22 Iowa State.
Freshman Matt Thomas followed with the first 3 of his career, and Niang buried one to give the Cyclones a 36-point lead early in the second half.
Chris Dixon had 15 points for UNC-Wilmington (0-2). The Seahawks lost to Iowa by 43 points on Friday.
“He hit a few big shots for us early and got us going,” Kane said of Long. “Me and him got a little thing going on in practice. I told him he had to hit at least five (3s) in this game and he knocked them down.”
Thomas and junior college transfer Dustin Hogue each had 10 points for Iowa State, which shot 52.4 percent from the field.
Sunday’s blowout capped a forgettable weekend in Iowa for the Seahawks.
UNC-Wilmington opened its season in Iowa City on Friday night, where the Hawkeyes jumped out to a 52-12 lead and won 82-39.
The Seahawks got off to a better start this time, inching within 14-13 before Long and the Cyclones overwhelmed them.
“He’s just been rising up with confidence, and that’s something we preach to our guys,” Hoiberg said of Long. “He had great pace and tempo in his shot. That’s what I noticed. He wasn’t rushing it.”
Hoiberg said after Sunday’s game that Ejim, a senior and the lone Cyclone on the preseason all-Big 12 team, will get another scan of his hyperextended left knee on Tuesday.
Hoiberg said that Ejim has been running and shooting almost every day and has already been fitted for a brace, though the Cyclones will have a clearer sense of Ejim’s timetable for a return following Tuesday’s visit to the doctor.
But Hoiberg also said that Long will still have a “huge” role in Iowa State’s plans when Ejim comes back.
After the way Long shot it on Sunday, it’d be tough to send him back to the bench.
“After I hit the first couple, I felt really calm,” Long said. “I felt calm and relaxed and I was knocking them down.”