Iowa St.-West Virginia Preview
Any struggles Iowa State has had in Big 12 play have come during the away portion of its schedule, but if Melvin Ejim can carry some of his recent play to the road, his team should be just fine against West Virginia.
The 11th-ranked Cyclones will try for a fourth straight victory Monday night in Morgantown as Ejim takes the court for the follow-up performance to his Big 12-record scoring performance over the weekend.
Iowa State fans were treated to 48 points by their senior forward Saturday in an 84-69 win over TCU.
"All the great players that have gone through this league and Melvin Ejim’s name is at the top," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "That’s unbelievable for a guy that maybe doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves."
Possibly overshadowed by his 20-for-24 shooting was his career-high 18 rebounds. On the team’s three-game winning streak, he’s averaging 30.7 points and 15.7 rebounds and is atop the Big 12 in scoring at 19.8 points per game. Ejim said there was no departure from the Cyclones’ normal plan in the special game.
"We were just playing," Ejim 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."
The Cyclones (18-8, 6-4 Big 12) held TCU to 37.5 percent shooting and reached 80 points for the fifth straight game. Their 85.0 points per game are a league best, and they’re the only team in the nation yet to be held under 70 this season.
West Virginia (14-10, 6-5), meanwhile, has struggled with its shot lately, connecting on 39.8 percent from the floor in its last five games. The Mountaineers had their three-game winning streak come to an end Saturday in an 83-69 loss at then-No. 8 Kansas.
"We just had some guys didn’t play very well, which happens," said coach Bob Huggins, whose team fell to 1-5 against ranked opponents. "We just didn’t make any open shots."
Juwan Staten scored a game-high 22 points while Eron Harris added 17. Staten (18.3) and Harris (17.5) are among the conference’s top-four scorers with Ejim. Each played 39 minutes against Kansas, and Staten is logging 37.5 per game, but Huggins would like to see some depth emerge against the Cyclones.
"The hard part about not having depth is we have to play Staten so long, we have to play Harris so long," Huggins said. "I don’t think it affects us in this game, but it may affect us on Monday (against Iowa State)."
The Mountaineers have won three in a row at home after suffering through a four-game home skid in December and January. The Cyclones snapped a three-game road losing streak Monday with a 98-97 triple-overtime win at Oklahoma State to improve to 2-3 in Big 12 away games.
The Cyclones won both meetings in the Mountaineers’ first season in the Big 12, the first meetings between the programs. In Morgantown, Iowa State won 83-74 on March 9. Ejim scored just two points while Staten was held to four.