AMES, Iowa (AP) – With about 9 minutes left in Iowa State’s game with TCU, Georges Niang of the Cyclones caught teammate Melvin Ejim looking up at the giant scoreboard that hangs over the center of the court.
“I’m like, what’s he looking at?” Niang said. “I looked up and he had 35 (points) and I was like, holy smoke, this could be a crazy night.”
That it was.
Ejim scored a Big 12-record 48 points, making 20 of 24 shots, and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds to lead No. 16 Iowa State past TCU 84-69 on Saturday, keeping the Horned Frogs winless in the conference.
Ejim had two 3-pointers and six dunks during his big game, one on a spectacular fast-break lob from DeAndre Kane that gave the Cyclones (18-4, 6-4 Big 12) a 67-52 lead and effectively put the game out of reach.
“It was teamwork,” Ejim said. “These guys just did a great job finding me in transition and getting me the ball in places where I could score. They made really selfless plays. We were just giving up the ball and luckily, I was on the receiving end.”
A 6-foot-6 senior, Ejim scored 20 straight Iowa State points during one stretch in the second half and easily notched his 30th career double-double.
He padded his lead in the Big 12 scoring race with a performance that topped the previous conference record of 44 points by Kansas State’s Denis Clemente in 2009 and the Wildcats’ Michael Beasley in 2008. His previous high had been 23 points against Oklahoma last season.
Iowa State’s school record is 54 by Lafester Rhodes in an overtime victory over Iowa in 1987.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, who once scored 41 in a game for the Cyclones, said Ejim’s record is all the more impressive considering it came in a league that has produced the likes of Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin.
“All the great players that have gone through this league and Melvin Ejim’s name is at the top,” he said. “That’s unbelievable for a guy that maybe doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.
The Cyclones needed those points because TCU (9-13, 0-10) kept matching them basket for basket down the stretch. Ejim stayed in the game until 19.9 seconds were left, when he left to a lengthy standing ovation.
“We were just playing,” he said. “I wasn’t really looking up to see how much I had. These guys just kept telling me to be aggressive, keep playing. I think I figured it out when they started chanting my name.”
Niang added 11 points and Kane finished with 10 assists for the Cyclones, who avoided a letdown after their thrilling three-overtime victory at Oklahoma State on Monday, their first win in Stillwater since 1988.
Kyan Anderson led the Horned Frogs with 27 points and eight assists. Amric Fields scored 18 points and Karviar Shepherd had 11 for TCU, which was coming off single-digit losses to Texas Tech and No. 15 Texas, but could not keep up with the Cyclones and the high-flying Ejim.
“I got back to Melvin back on (Big 12) media day,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “He is one of my favorite college basketball players in the country this year. I think he is really underrated. He is a hell of a kid, at least from the interaction I’ve had with him. He plays extremely hard and he is very efficient.”
The game was expected to offer a break for the Cyclones after they played four straight against Top 25 teams and eight in a row against teams that were ranked at one time or another. But the Horned Frogs proved to be a little more stubborn than anticipated despite a horrible start.
TCU gave up the ball on a shot clock violation on the game’s first possession, Dustin Hogue followed with a 3-pointer and Iowa State led from then on as the Horned Frogs missed nine of their first 10 shots.
Despite some sloppy play at times, the Cyclones built a 16-point lead late in the first half, then had the lead whittled to seven before Ejim went on his tear to wrap it up.
TCU shot 29.6 percent in the first half and did not have more baskets than turnovers until Anderson hit the second of two straight 3-pointers with 45 seconds left in the first half, cutting the lead to 32-22.
“We battled,” Johnson said. “For us to be within striking distance with about four minutes to go, I can’t fault what our kids did.”
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