AMES — Most of the 14,384 fans had left Hilton Coliseum Saturday by the time Iowa State star Melvin Ejim strolled out for his post game interview on the Cyclone Radio Network.
Ejim had just racked up multiple records — including a Big 12 benchmark of 48 points scored in a conference game — in a a tenser-than-the-final-score-indicated 84-69 win over TCU.
But the remaining fans wanted him to pose for photos.
He did, as always.
A few wanted autographs.
He signed, as usual.
And by the time the same fans asked Cyclones Coach Fred Hoiberg for his signature, he obliged, but first things first:
“Did you get Melvin’s?” said Hoiberg, whose 17th-ranked team (18-4, 6-4) plays at 6 p.m. today at dangerous West Virginia.
Ejim’s game was obviously one for the ages.
Only Lafester Rhodes’ legendary 54-point effort in a 1987 win over Iowa topped it, but he needed overtime to hit that lofty number.
Ejim, a four-year starter who’s often played second or third fiddle to transfers in his dynamic career, soaked in the love and glory, but didn’t bask in it.
“It was a great feeling, an awesome feeling,” he said.
“It’s one good game,” Ejim said.
It was the story of college basketball Saturday — until Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart reacted to a Texas Tech fan’s ugly insults with a shove.
And rightfully so, Hoiberg said, since while Ejim was hitting 20 of 24 from the field, his assist-happy teammates were a combined 12 of 36.
“(We) had to have them,” Hoiberg said of Ejim’s points. “It’s not like it’s a blowout out there and he’s just getting garbage baskets. We needed them. They were matching us basket for basket.”
For a while, anyway.
The Mountaineers (14-10, 6-5) figure to do a better job of that today, with the likes of Juwan Staten (18.3 points) and Eron Harris (17.5 points) lighting up the floor.
Staten’s average is exactly what Ejim’s was entering Saturday’s game — and he boasts a 35-point game in a recent 81-71 win over Kansas State.
“Morgantown’s a tough place to play,” said Ejim, who scored just two points in his team’s 83-74 win there last season. “We’re excited to play them and I’m sure they’re going to be geared up to play us. They just played Kansas extremely well (83-69 loss at Lawrence) — got away from them in the last couple minutes (12-1 Jayhawks run). But they’re playing extremely good basketball and they’ve been on a tear.”
The Mountaineers have won four of their last six games after enduring losses in four of five previous games.
“They’re playing great,” Hoiberg said. “It’s a team that’s playing with a lot of freedom and shooting the heck out of the ball. So we’ll just put our principles in and hopefully go out and execute.”
That’s Ejim’s individual goal, too — maintaing a season-long streak of production that likely won’t lead to a 48-point game again.
“We’ve got to move on,” Ejim said.
Ejim wreaks havoc on Big 12 record books
Here’s a look at conference single-game records Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim set in Saturday’s win over TCU (via ISU sports information):
Points scored in a game: 48
Points scored in a conference game: 48
Points scored in a half: 33 (2nd)
Points scored in a conference game half: 33 (2nd)
Field goals made: 20
Field goals made, conference game: 20
Field goals made in a half: 14 (2nd)
Field goals made in a conference half: 14 (2nd)Combined points + rebounds, single game: 66