DENVER -- The Iowa State Cyclones secured their 78-61 win over the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans in the second round of the NCAA tournament during the first half on Saturday, when the Trojans' best player couldn't breathe. Blame Monte Morris, not the altitude.
Minutes before the break, Morris engaged Trojans star Josh Hagins, who scored 31 points in a win over Purdue on Thursday. Hagins (3-for-8), who lost his 15 minutes of fame when Friday's breathtaking NCAA tournament slate reduced his time in the spotlight, looked at Trojans coach Chris Beard and pulled his jersey -- the universal signal to request a break.
Play continued, however, so Hagins tried to shake Morris, who stood in front of him, clapping his hands. Morris had frozen the senior again. That's when he yelled a four-letter word that's a universal expression of frustration.
Yes, you saw Hagins go 1-for-4 in the first half on Saturday two days after the senior became the first player in NCAA tournament history to record at least 30 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals in a game since steals became an official statistic in 1986, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
But you probably missed the fatigue that Hagins displayed throughout Saturday's game, the concerned gazes toward his team's bench and anxious gestures he made to teammates searching for better days with their best player grounded and Iowa State connecting on seven of its first 12 3-pointers. Georges Niang dropped 28 points, too.
Perhaps you missed Morris' defensive effort -- secondary all season to his offensive poise and command -- throughout the matchup. Morris struggled in the Big 12 tournament after missing last week's practices with a shoulder injury. He finished 1-for-9 in a quarterfinal loss to Oklahoma last week.
But Morris, "90 percent" this week, used his speed and agility to limit Hagins' options and deny his touches.
By the time Hagins had hit his first 3-pointer with nearly five minutes to play, and another less than a minute later, Morris' work had already changed the game. Hagins didn't have another comeback in him -- he scored 21 points in the final five minutes and two overtimes of Little Rock's win over Purdue -- because Morris refused to leave him alone at the Pepsi Center.