Had the Cyclones been at full health, Naz Long would have come off the bench in Sunday's season-opener against UNC-Wilmgonton, a 95-62 thrashing.
But with forward Melvin Ejim out the next few weeks with a knee injury, Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg elected to shrink his small-ball lineup, tabbing the 6-foot-4 Long to start at guard and slide everybody else down a position.
And if Long hadn't gotten big minutes Sunday, that thrashing wouldn't have been by such a deficit.
The sophomore guard drilled eight of his 11 three-point attempts on his way to 26 points, nearly quadrupling his prior career high of seven points and besting his total freshman year output of 25.
"I've just been working on that and the hard work in the gym finally paid off," Long said. "I've got to give big credit to my teammates, they were looking out for me."
Five of Long's three-pointers came from the left corner.
For some context, Tyrus McGee never made more than six three-pointers in a game. Further, only 20 times in all of college basketball last season did a player make more than eight three-pointers in a game.
"He has been really stroking it in practice. It was great to see it pay off in a game situation. He's just been rising up with confidence. That's what we've been preaching to our guys, rise up with swagger and knock it down."
Senior point guard DeAndre Kane had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds and Georges Niang added 16 points. Matt Thomas and Dustin Hogue each scored 10 points and freshman point guard Monté Morris hit two three-pointers.
UNC-Wilmington, which lost 82-39 to Iowa in its season-opener, kept the game close the first 10 minutes; with 10:08 left in the first half, the Cyclones led 14-13. But spurred by five Long three-pointers, the Cyclones bumped their lead to 52-22 at halftime.
"We had to improvise our lineup," Hoiberg said. "I liked it, liked the four guards in there."
Said Kane, who went from the top of the key to having his back to the basket: "It was alright. Just set screens and roll and if I can pick-and-pop and go, then go."
"I thought our spacing on the break was really good," Hoiberg said.
"[Naz] had great pace and tempo on his shot tonight and he wasn't rushing it.
"It's great to see that hard work pay off. He was off-balance last week. You have to have that rhythm and tempo to be an effective shooter."
He'll still play a great role for us. Thing I was most impressed with Naz tonight was he was all over the place defensively. That's one thing I know will be a constant."
"You've got to be prepared for whatever step you're gonna take."
"The last shot I took I should've hit Georges on the run but I pulled up. Even coach said I should've made a better decision. After I hit the first couple I felt really calm. This game I definitely felt calm and relaxed and I was knocking them down."
"I just let the game go by and my teammates were. I'm a student of the game so I take whatever will come to me."
"In practice [Naz Long] is lights-out, man. He's a great shooter, shoots the ball the same every time."
"I'm hunting [rebounds] down. I'm going and getting them. Get the rebound and go."
The Cyclones have one day off before hosting Texas A&M Corpus-Christi on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.