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AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State will spend the next two months playing in one the toughest leagues in the country.
The Cyclones won't be able to struggle for more than a half like they did on Tuesday and expect to compete in the Big 12.
Senior Matt Thomas scored a career-high 23 points to lead Iowa State past Mississippi Valley State 88-60, helping the Cyclones post back-to-back wins for the first time in a month.
Naz Mitrou-Long had 19 points and Monte Morris scored 13 for the Cyclones (8-3), who shot 50 percent from 3-point range and finished on a 32-11 run.
But Iowa State, plagued by turnovers, let winless Mississippi Valley State (0-12) rip off a 16-3 run in the first half and trailed the winless Delta Devils 25-24 at one point. The Cyclones also let MVSU grab 13 offensive rebounds.
"We had good stretches. We had bad stretches," said Mitrou-Long, who has scored 56 points in his last two games after struggling earlier this season. "We can't get beat on the offensive glass."
The Cyclones eventually overwhelmed MVSU as expected, jumping ahead 78-53 on a Thomas layup with just over six minutes left.
Isaac Williams and Darrell Riley each scored 18 for the Delta Devils. They were outrebounded 43-28.
"We've got to just get our tenacity and our swagger back on defense," Prohm said.
Iowa State: The Cyclones' non-conference record is just eighth-best in the Big 12, which entered Tuesday with half of its members at 10-1 or better. Iowa State is much more likely to finish in the middle of the league than at the top of it — but the Cyclones at least have a lot more depth than it did in 2015-16. Still, letting one of the nation's worst teams hang around until well into the second half isn't a good look for the Cyclones.
Mississippi Valley State: The Delta Devils open the season with 14 straight road games. But they'll stay in central Iowa to face Drake on Thursday — a game they can win. The Bulldogs are 1-10.
Iowa State was extremely sloppy with the ball in the first half, committing 10 turnovers — its season average — in the first 16:35. The Delta Devils turned those mistakes into 15 points, and that's the main reason they stayed competitive for as long as they did. The Cyclones finished with 15 turnovers.
Iowa State's senior centers, Darrell Bowie (five points, two rebounds) and Merrill Holden (three points) struggled again, which might mean freshman Solomon Young's will soon go up. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound Young has had issues with foul trouble early in his career. But Young had eight points and seven rebounds in just 15 minutes Tuesday.
HE SAID IT
"When we play the way we have to play, because we are small, we do have to have a little nastiness to us. When we do that, I think the non-conference schedule has proven that we can play with anyone in the country," Prohm said. "You wish the one game here (or there) you didn't drop, but it's all about finishing games."
Iowa State opens Big 12 play on Dec. 30 when it hosts Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are 10-1, but their schedule has been far from taxing.
MVSU will travel just 35 miles south to face Drake Thursday.
More college basketball at www.collegebasketball.ap.org
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