But Long looked good enough in fall practice to earn a starting nod for the opener in place of Ejim, who had been battling a minor injury. Long responded with a team-high 26 points, and his eight 3s foreshadowed the rest of his season.
So did the next game.
Long had just five points, starting a season-long trend in which he strung together back-to-back double-digits scoring nights just once.
But Long is also the rare player who can be accurately described as both inconsistent and spectacular.
Hoiberg toyed with the idea of making Long a permanent starter early in Big 12 play. But he was just 4-of-17 shooting in four starts and got benched in favor of Morris.
Long responded with the first of many “season-saving” shots for the Cyclones.
Long drilled a 3 that pushed Iowa State’s game at Oklahoma State into triple overtime on Feb. 3, and the Cyclones wound up surviving 98-97.
Long forced the Cowboys into overtime again in the regular-season finale in Ames on a 30-footer at the buzzer. Iowa State found its momentum in OT and carried it all the way to Kansas City and the Big 12 tournament.
Long then hit a 3 with 2:53 left to give Iowa State a lead it would not relinquish against Kansas State. He did the same with 3:45 to go as Iowa State rallied from 10 down to beat Baylor in the conference title game.
Long credits his midseason resurgence to Hoiberg, a former standout shooter in the NBA who urged Long to get his footwork back on track.
“I’ve got to play defense and I’ve got to knock down shots. There’s not much more to worry about,” Long said. “If I get the ball in my hands, I’m going to shoot the shot. If it goes in, it goes in. I just know that when my opportunity comes, if I need to shoot a shot I need to make it.”