By Rob Gray
AMES — Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim’s spent his senior season turning a good career into a great one.
Most points ever scored by a Cyclone player in regulation?
Check — by pouring in 48 two weeks ago in an 84-69 win over TCU.
First-team Academic All-American?
Yup — as announced this week by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
A recently-elusive authoritative reverse dunk?
He did that, too — while scoring 25 points in Tuesday’s convincing 85-76 win over Texas.
“The last two games I think I missed two reverse dunks, so I knew I was going to get one eventually,” said Ejim, who gets another crack at the winless-in-conference-play Horned Frogs at 3 p.m. in Forth Worth. “Georges (Niang) gave me a nice pass, I took one dribble and I was under there, so I figured why not?”
Those two words — why not? — serve as a fitting motto for ISU’s Big 12 regular season stretch one.
The No. 19 Cyclones (20-5, 8-5) are locked in a tie for third place with Oklahoma and Kansas State — all one game back of the Longhorns, which owns a tiebreaker because they’re the one Big 12 team to beat first-place mainstay Kansas.
Still, a second-place finish for ISU isn’t out of the question, given its final seven league games come against teams either even, or below them, in the standings.
But that word — given — serves as another key for the Cyclones.
As is, don’t assume anything, as lowly Boston College’s monumental overtime upset Wednesday of previous unbeaten and top-ranked Syracuse attests.
“Every week you’re seeing something like that happen,” ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s the landscape of college basketball. Any team can beat anybody. It’s going to be a fun March.”
Fun if you’re winning.
Not so fun if you fall on the bad end of that “any team can beat anybody” scenario.
Which brings us to TCU.
The Horned Frogs (9-16, 0-13) are 0-for-2014 and several blowouts lurk within that long stretch of futility.
A few outliers also exist — notably, five- and six-point losses to Texas and Texas Tech — and that’s what concerns Hoiberg and the Cyclones.
“They’re a hungry team,” said Ejim, who leads the Big 12 in scoring at 19.1 points per game.
They’ll likely adjust defensively to slow ISUs high-scoring senior down, too.
“They’ve been playing a lot of zone and they’re mixing some man in, so we just have to be prepared for both,” Hoiberg said. “There’s always adjustments that teams make from the first go-around, so we’ll see.”
The Cyclones also will be looking to keep its improved defense on track.
Texas shot just 33 percent from the field Tuesday, but stayed alive by nailing 23 of 25 free throws.
ISU has been outshot at the line in four of the last five games, including by TCU, which hit 18 of 23.
“You have to play with the right mindset,” Hoiberg said. “You can’t commit silly fouls early to get them toward that bonus. You’ve just got to try to do the best job you can playing without your hands.”
Ejim’s been excelling lately in both areas — with hands extended when it counts.
He’s got a mental checklist, which applies mostly to wins, but also reverse dunks.“At the moment I just dunked it, but I guess I’d been thinking about it for a while,” Ejim said.