AMES — For most of the first half of the season, Iowa State’s 6-6 forwards Melvin Ejim and Dustin Hogue staged a rough-and-tumble, but good-natured internal battle.
The question: Who was the biggest “monster” in terms of rebounding?
The answer then: Depends on the day.
The answer now: Both need to shore up their quasi-supernatural abilities to soar above taller players, beginning with today’s 3 p.m. Big 12 matchup between the 10th-ranked Cyclones(14-2, 2-2) and unranked, but rising Texas (13-4, 2-2) in Austin.
“Rebounding’s not a technique,” said Ejim, who led the conference in rebounding last season and currently ranks 11th at 6.9 per game. “It’s just going hard. … Me and Dustin are taking initiative to really just be monsters on the glass again and really get after it. We’re working on it and emphasizing it every day.”
ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg mandated that after No. 18 Kansas out-boarded his team 53 to 36 Monday en route to a 77-70 victory at Hilton Coliseum.
They Cyclones have been beaten on the glass the past five games — and by nine or more three times in that span.
Now they face the Big 12’s best rebounding team based on quantity.
The Longhorns average 42.2 boards per game and rank second in rebounding margin at plus-8.1.
“It’s a team you’ve got to get back in transition (on) and you’ve obviously got to battle them on the boards,” Hoiberg said. “If you can do those two things, you’re going to have a chance.”
Two Texas players excel on the glass.
Both Cameron Ridley (6-8) and Jonathan Holmes (6-9) rank among the league’s top 10 in rebounding at 7.4 and 7.3 per game, respectively.
The Cyclones feature three players — throw 6-4 point guard DeAndre Kane into the “monster” mix — in the top 11.
Hogue ranks second at 9.3 per game.
Kane checks in at ninth at 7.3.
They, along with Ejim, need more help, but …
“It’s not time to panic,” Hoiberg said.
He was referencing recent long-range shooting struggles, but the comment applies to rebounding, as well.
“You’ve just got to be physical,” Hoiberg said. “You’ve got to hit them in the chest and make initial contact.”
ISU forward Georges Niang said that’s been a focal point in practice.
“I just think we’re touching guys rather than actually moving them out of our area,” he said. “That’s something we’ve been working on.”
They’ve also been working on shooting.
The Cyclones went a frosty 10 of 51 from 3-point range in losses to the Jayhawks and Oklahoma.
Niang has misfired on his last 17 long-distance attempts.
“You’re eventually going to make shots,” said Niang, who hit 39 percent of his 3s last season. “So we’ll just keep shooting them.”
That’s what Hoiberg preaches — and it’s obviously been successful.
In his first three seasons, ISU set program records each time in 3-pointers made.
The Cyclones still lead the Big 12 in 3-pointers per game at 8.6.
“It’s a two-game slump that we’ve had,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll dig out of it. I’m confident with that.”
As for the “monsters” …“The rebounding numbers are going to take care of themselves as long as we continue to put the same effort in,” Ejim said.