DeAndre Kane congratulates Melvin Ejim after a second-half basket (AP)
Thanks to his rebounding prowess, solid defense and tremendous vocal leadership skills, Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim landed on a few all-"glue guy" teams last year celebrating the nation's best role players.
His inclusion was meant as a compliment but this season Ejim has proven the label sells him way short.
Already the Big 12's leading scorer entering Saturday's home game against last-place TCU, Ejim added to his lead with one of the great performances any player has delivered during the 2013-14 season. The 6-foot-6 senior scored 48 points in Iowa State's 84-69 victory, setting a Big 12 single-game scoring record and tying BYU's Tyler Haws and Texas Southern's Aaric Murray for the most points scored by a Division I player this season.
The most impressive part of Ejim's performance against TCU was how ruthlessly efficient he was from the field. He sank 18 of 22 shots from inside the arc, buried both threes he attempted and also hit 6 of 6 free throws. Ejim also threw in a game-high 18 rebounds because, hey, why not?
Ejim's performance helped lift Iowa State to a comfortable victory in a game viewed as a breather for the Cyclones after they played seven straight games against likely NCAA tournament teams. Iowa State has now won three straight and sits in a third-place tie in the rugged Big 12, one game behind second-place Texas.
Though Ejim had 15 points by halftime including a pair of picturesque alley-oop slams, there were no signs anything historic was coming until his second-half scoring blitz began. At one point, he scored 20 consecutive points for Iowa State, doing everything from hitting threes, to slashing to the rim to finishing fast breaks with crowd-pleasing dunks.
By the time Ejim exited the game with a few seconds to go to a standing ovation from the Hilton Coliseum crowd and to hugs and high fives from his teammates, one thing was clear about Ejim.
He's not a "glue guy" anymore. He has graduated to full-fledged star.
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