MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The loss at No. 8 Kansas on Saturday was just soaking in for Bob Huggins when he received word a player his team was to face 48 hours later—Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim—had just scored 48 points.
“Good, maybe he got them all out of the way,” Huggins joked.
The Toronto-born Ejim established a single-game Big 12 scoring record as No. 16 Iowa State downed TCU 84-69 in Ames. Aided by six dunks, he made 20-of-24 shots and went 6-of-6 at the foul line in a historic afternoon of basketball.
“For a guy like Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin—and all the great players that have gone through this league—Melvin Ejim’s name is at the top for points,” beamed Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg.
At only 6-foot-6, Ejim won the league rebounding title last season yet hasn’t been mentioned in player of the year conversations until Saturday. After he grabbed 18 rebounds and scored 33 second-half points—which would have been a career-high in itself—Ejim certainly surfaced as a contender.
“It was the best game and most fun game of my life,” he said.
What kind of follow-up performance Ejim produces could be crucial to West Virginia’s hopes of beating ISU for the first time in Big 12 play. The Cyclones swept last year’s meetings 69-67 in Ames and 83-74 in Morgantown.
“We need to come out Monday ready to play,” said Huggins, who wasn’t crazy about the two-day turnaround cutting into both teams’ preparation time. More to his liking is the fact West Virginia figures to face five top-50 RPI teams during the next 27 days.
“We’ve got all kinds of opportunities to get some great wins,” he said.
SCOUTING IOWA STATE
Tipoff: Monday, 7 p.m. in Morgantown (ESPNU)
Records: The Cyclones (18-4, 6-4) went undefeated in nonleague play—highlighted by RPI-top 50 wins over Michigan, Iowa and BYU—but then lost three consecutive games early on in Big 12 action. They have won three straight heading into Monday night. … The Mountaineers (14-10, 6-5) had a three-game win streak severed at Kansas on Saturday, losing 83-69.
RPIs: Iowa State is No. 8 and WVU is No. 72.
Coach: Fred Hoiberg stands 80-43 in his fourth season at Iowa State, where his alma mater is bound for a third straight NCAA tournament berth. He has done it with a conglomerate of transfers, including several players who encountered various degrees of trouble at their previous schools. But Hoiberg is viewed as a terrific communicator who gives his players freedom on the court even as he affords them a second chance off of it.
Iowa State’s top players: Ejim rightfully grabs the headlines this week, but former Marshall standout DeAndre Kane is a physical 6-foot-4 point guard who has blended in seamlessly as a one-and-done transfer. He’s averaging 16 points, 6.5 rebounds and a conference-leading 6.1 assists. He handed out 10 assists against TCU and has 28 in his last three games. … Georges Niang (16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds) is a savvy low-post player who hit the game-winning layup to beat WVU in Ames last year. His sophomore season has revealed steady progress though he has fouled out a league-worst five times.
WVU roster notes: Juwan Staten ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring (18.3) after a 22-point effort at Kansas. He slipped to second in assists (5.88) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.71). … Eron Harris (17.5 points per game) can only hope he plays like he did in WVU’s last home game—a 28-point performance vs. Oklahoma. He has made 26 consecutive free throws dating back to the first half of the Jan. 18 game at Kansas State. … Terry Henderson’s home/road splits for Big 12 play—8.1 points and 15-of-50 shooting on the road, 19 points and 33-of-65 at home.
Line: Iowa State favored by 2.
Prediction: West Virginia 80-77