Melvin Ejim


Late Night Snacks: Sunday’s Elite 8 matchups set

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 8 Kentucky 74, No. 4 Louisville 69

How does one pick a game of the night amongst a slate of four superiorly played contests? Each of Friday’s Sweet 16 games could have made this cut, but since John Calipari was able to snap Rick Pitino’s streak — prior to Friday, the Louisville coach was 11-0 in Sweet 16 match-ups — the Kentucky win gets top billing. The game did not start strongly for UK — Calipari said he knew his team would ‘pee down their legs‘ once the ball was tipped — and it appeared like Louisville, fueled by Russ Smith’s dunks, Luke Hancock taking each Wildcat off the dribble, and poor UK perimeter shooting, would make a consecutive Elite 8.

The play of Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson, two of the less hyped UK bigs, helped balance the squad until UK could make its run late in the second half. Johnson scored 15 points and grabbed six boards, and Poythress, in particular, changed the contest’s dynamic — without his defensive intensity, which included forcing a Hancock steal and blocking Smith on an open court attempt, UK likely wouldn’t be playing on Sunday.


1) No. 7 Connecticut 81, No. 3 Iowa State 76: Until just over two minutes remained in the second half, Connecticut, whose fans packed Madison Square Garden like it was the Big East Tournament and Jim Calhoun was still on the sidelines, was in complete control. At that point, Iowa State was somehow awoken from their game-long stupor and began a too late charge. ISU junior Dustin Hogue put in some serious work, scoring a career-high 34 points (he made 15 out of 19 shots), and DeAndre Daniels was the game’s other DeAndre (as opposed to Kane), splashing the net with crucial jump shots (he finished with 27 points).

2) No. 2 Michigan 73, No. 11 Tennessee 71: When discussing this Sweet 16 tilt years from now, the charging foul on UT’s Jarnell Stokes will be the evergreen moment, while Caris LeVert’s swiping Stokes will be lost as memories fade. The Vols simply could not handle Michigan’s offensive fortitude in the first half, yielding 1.45 points per possession from countless jumpers off flare screens. A combination of tighter defense and careless Michigan turnovers kept this game much closer than the first half would have indicated, and the Wolverines, along with their electric and dynamic scoring, will next face Kentucky.

3) No. 4 Michigan State 80, No. 1 Virginia 78: This game had the feel of being played in a cramped, stuffy sweatbox that only seats a few hundred. It certainly didn’t feel like Madison Square Garden — for much of the second half, fans were standing, refusing to sit for fear of missing the back-and-forth shooting display. The Cavaliers’ pack-line defense was true to form — the duo of Gary Harris and Keith Appling were rendered ineffective, converting just three of eight field goals — but UVa had no match for Branden Dawson, a junior who overpowered (24 points, ten rebounds) the entirety of the Cavs’ frontcourt.


1) Branden Dawson, Michigan State: The junior big’s game against Virginia was spectacular, but his play throughout the NCAA tournament is noteworthy: through three games, Dawson is making nearly 60 percent of his twos, grabbing 19 defensive boards, and committing just two turnovers.

2) Alex Poythress, Kentucky: The sophomore only scored six points and grabbed four rebounds against Louisville, but without his defense late in the second half, UK would have likely been the twelfth team on Pitino’s Sweet 16 streak.

3) Jordan Morgan, Michigan : A picture of Morgan was published this week in the Detroit Free-Press, showcasing his transformation from a freshman to senior, and the big looks positively Gaston-esque. That buff physique helped Morgan handle the Vols’ burly interior, and combined with a thorough scouting report, put Morgan in the position to draw the defensive play of the game.


1) Willie Cauley-Stein’s ankle: Following the win, Calipari said his center’s ankle injury was “…not a good ankle injury.” It would be very surprising if Cauley-Stein played on Sunday against Michigan, but he could undergo a miraculous turnaround within the next 24 hours.

2) Michigan State’s backcourt: Harris, Appling, and Denzel Valentine combined to make just four field goals against a stout Cavalier defense.

3) Iowa State’s seniors: This isn’t how the Cyclones 2014 season should have ended. After helping to carry the team throughout the year, Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane suffered their worst offensive outing in ’14 — Kane was two of nine from the free throw line (he normally makes 63 percent of his free throws), and Ejim converted just three out of thirteen field goals.

No. 3 Iowa State wins but loses Georges Niang to broken foot


With one 14-seed having already won on Friday (Mercer), it’s understandable that East Region No. 14 North Carolina Central  would have designs on doing the same against No. 3 Iowa State. However the high-powered Cyclones proved to be too much for the MEAC champions, with all five starters reaching double figures in Iowa State’s 93-75 victory.

However for as well as the Cyclones played offensively, the win came at a significant cost as Niang revealed after the game that he broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.

Niang, who left the game with about five minutes remaining, led the way with 24 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists and Melvin Ejim added 17 points and eight rebounds. As a team Iowa State shot 63.6% from the field and 9-for-17 from three, with 21 of their 35 made field goals being assisted.

The loss of Niang will have a major impact on the Cyclones’ hopes of reaching the Final Four, given his ability as a scorer, rebounder and distributor. Over his last five games the sophomore forward averaged 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, shooting 47.2% from the field. It’s extremely difficult to replace a player of Niang’s caliber, but Iowa State will need to find a way to do so with one day to prepare for No. 6 North Carolina.

Without Niang even more will be required of Ejim and DeAndre Kane against the Tar Heels, and the role players will have to step up as well. Dustin Hogue and Monte Morris added 15 points apiece against North Carolina Central, and they’ll need to be just as productive Sunday.

For Iowa State this is a horrible case of déjà vu, with this being the second consecutive season in which they’ve lost a player to injury during the NCAA tournament. Last season it was Chris Babb, and this time around it’s Niang. Considered to be a team capable of reaching the Final Four after winning the Big 12 tournament title last weekend, Iowa State’s road to AT&T Stadium becomes far tougher to navigate as a result of Niang’s injury.

Bench production pushes Kansas State past No. 15 Iowa State

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No. 15 Iowa State has three of the Big 12’s best players in guard DeAndre Kane and forwards Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang. That trio combines to average 52.0 points and 19.7 rebounds per game, and when they’re clicking the Cyclones are a difficult team to beat. But Fred Hoiberg’s team isn’t particularly deep and that was an issue in their 80-73 loss in Manhattan.

Kansas State’s reserves scored 38 points on the night, with Shane Southwell scoring 13 points and D.J. Johnson 12. Johnson, who also grabbed six rebounds, made all five of his shots from the field and was another valuable front court option alongside Thomas Gipson (12 points, eight rebounds).

Iowa State received just two points from its bench, with this becoming a bigger issue than usual due to the offensive struggles experienced by both Niang and Dustin Hogue. Niang wasn’t able to establish himself against the Kansas State front court, scoring eight points on 3-for-14 shooting and grabbing just two rebounds. And even though Hogue (12 rebounds) isn’t asked to score at the rate of Iowa State’s three best scorers he’s still averaging 10.8 points per game on the season, meaning that he’s clearly capable of more than the two points he tallied in Manhattan.

Ejim (30 points, 16 rebounds) and Kane (24, eight rebounds and six assists) did much of the heavy lifting for Iowa State, and this was the first subpar performance put forth by Niang after enjoying a run of 13 straight games in double figures. Saturday’s result was more about Bruce Weber’s team working together to add another quality home win to its resume.

The Wildcats don’t have a bonafide star, although freshman Marcus Foster could eventually reach that point. Against Iowa State five players scored in double figures and they also defended, limiting the Cyclones to 35% shooting from the field and 7-for-27 from beyond the arc. Kansas State’s a tournament team, but their lack of success away from Manhattan made Saturday’s contest important when it comes to their seeding.

Kansas State has one more road game remaining as they visit Oklahoma State on Monday night. And if they can put forth the same effort displayed on Saturday, the Wildcats can add a decent road/neutral result to its resume before the Big 12 tournament.

College Hoops Week in Review: Melvin Ejim and SMU burst onto national radar

Melvin Ejim, Hudson Price
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Melvin Ejim, Iowa State

Melvin Ejim put on one of the single most impressive individual performances that you’ll see on Saturday afternoon. He scored 48 points on 20-for-24 shooting from the floor and added 18 rebounds in Iowa State’s 84-69 win over TCU. That just doesn’t happen. People just don’t put up numbers like that. You want proof? The last time that anyone had 48 points and 18 boards in a basketball game at the NBA or Division I level was in 2003 when Shaq did it. That same year, David West had 47 points and 18 boards in a game for Xavier, which is the closest that any college player has come to those numbers since 1996.

Here’s the other thing about Ejim: this isn’t necessarily a fluke. What you may not realize is that Ejim led the Big 12 in rebounding last season and that he’s leading the Big 12 in scoring this season. There’s a chance that he ends up being the Conference Player of the Year by the time that it is all said and done. He’s been awesome this season, but it took 48 points and 18 boards for us to realize it.

They were good, too:

  • Davon Usher, Delaware: Usher averaged 33.5 points in two wins this week, which included arguably the best individual performance of the season. He scored 27 of his 42 points on Wednesday against Charleston in the last nine minutes, helping the Blue Hens erase a 20 point deficit.
  • Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State: The Sun Devils swept Oregon this past week, and Bachynski was the biggest reason why, averaging 21.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks while shooting 75% from the floor.
  • Jaye Crockett, Texas Tech: Lost in the Marcus Smart debacle was the performance from Texas Tech and Crockett, who had 21 points and 12 boards, following up 15 points, six boards, five assists, two blocks and two steals he had against TCU.
  • Xavier Thames, San Diego State: Thames averaged 20.0 points in two wins this week, which included taking over down the stretch in a come-from-behind win against Boise State.
  • Bobby Portis, Arkansas: Portis had 35 points, nine boards and six blocks in a win against Alabama, and followed that up by helping Arkansas pick up their first SEC road win against someone other than Auburn in Mike Anderson’s tenure.


The Mustangs moved into the AP top 25 for the first time in nearly three decades on Monday morning after Larry Brown’s squad rolled knocked off No. 7 Cincinnati by 21 points on Saturday evening. It’s the latest example of just how far ahead of schedule SMU is in their development as a program. They were expected to be a potential bubble team this season. Instead, they have looked just as good, if not better, than they other four AAC contenders this season.

The key now for SMU is to prove that they can win a game on the road. Blasting Cincinnati, Memphis and UConn in a suddenly-raucous Moody Coliseum is one thing. Going into Storrs or Louisville and coming away with a win is an entirely different story.

They were good, too:

  • Wisconsin: The Badgers ended their skid of five losses in six games by winning at Illinois and then knocking off Michigan State at home this week.
  • St. John’s: The Johnnies have now won six of their last seven games after winning at Providence and knocking off Creighton in the Garden on Sunday night. All of a sudden, this looks like a bubble team.
  • Ohio State: The Buckeyes are back. After winning at Wisconsin two weeks ago, Ohio State won at Iowa and knocked off Purdue over the weekend.
  • Yale: The Elis are now swept the weekend, winning at Dartmouth and Harvard to put themselves into a tie for first place in the conference.
  • North Carolina: The Tar Heels are back. They’ve won five straight games after knocking off Maryland and Notre Dame this week.

Melvin Ejim’s 48 points, 18 boards lead Iowa State to win over TCU

TCU v Iowa State
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Melvin Ejim took 24 shots on Saturday afternoon.

He made 20 of them.

He finished with 48 points and 18 boards in an 84-69 win over TCU.

Not a bad night.

The 48 points that Ejim scored tied him with BYU’s Tyler Haws and Texas Southern’s Aaric Murray for the most points scored in a game this season. The 48 points also stands as a Big 12 record. The last time anyone in Division I basketball or the NBA finished with 48 points and 18 boards was in 2003 when Shaq pulled off the feat. No one has posted numbers like that in college since 1996, although one player did come close:

Xavier’s David West had 47 points and 18 boards exactly 11 years to the day from Ejim’s performance.

Again, not a bad night:

ESPN Stats & Info

No. 8 Iowa State’s loss to No. 15 Kansas not promising, but far from a disaster

Melvin Ejim
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This just wasn’t No. 8 Iowa State’s night.

Listen to some of these numbers: the Cyclones shot 31.4% from the floor and 4-for-25 from three. Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue were a combined 12-for-45 from the floor and 2-for-15 from three. Niang alone was 4-for-20 from the floor and 0-for-9 from three. Those three guys, their ability to create mismatches with opposing big men, are at the crux of what the Cyclones do offensively. They can’t win on a night when they post numbers like this.

Deandre Kane returned to the court after injuring his ankle on Saturday, and while he finished with 21 points, the 8-for-16 he shot from the line is going to loom large when he looks at the box score.

You really want to get a feel for just how badly Iowa State shot on Monday night? They won the turnover battle by 17, forcing No. 15 Kansas into 24 miscues while committing just seven of their own, and the Cyclones still lost to the Jayhawks at home, 77-70.

If I’m an Iowa State, the bright side is pretty obvious here. The Cyclones could not have had a worse shooting night even if everyone on the team had to shoot every shot left-handed. Their all-american point guard was, at the very least, hampered by his ankle. Naadir Tharpe had the best game of his collegiate career and Joel Embiid played as well as he has all season in the second half.

And the Cyclones only lost by seven points.

I don’t think painting moral victories is a good thing for a conference title contender to do, but it could have been much, much worse.

Is Iowa State still a contender though?

I believe so. It’s going to be tough — they’re already two games behind the 4-0 Jayhawks in league play and they already got Baylor and Kansas at home — but everyone is going to get knocked around in the Big 12. There are just too many good teams in the league for Kansas to make it through unscathed. If I had to make a prediction, I’d say that going 14-4 may win you the league outright.

That said, Kansas has the talent to take complete control of the conference race, but until their most important players display more consistency on a nightly basis, this is still a league that the Cyclones can win.