TCU did an admirable job of slowing down Iowa State’s usual 3-point barrage Saturday afternoon at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones went 7 for 21 from 3-point range, their most meager output in six games.
But it didn’t matter. Melvin Ejim made sure it didn’t matter. The senior forward exploded for a Big 12-record 48 points to lead No. 16 Iowa State (18-4, 6-4 Big 12) over TCU 84-69 in front of an energized crowd of 14,384.
It’s the most points by a player this season. His previous career high was 23. It’s the second-best single-game total in Iowa State history after Lafester Rhodes’ 54 against Iowa in 1987.
Ejim also pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds and answered every TCU comeback attempt down the stretch.
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When Brandon Parrish’s putback dunk cut the Horned Frogs’ deficit to 60-52 with 8:30 remaining, Ejim took over and turned an exceptional performance into something historic. He nailed a 3-pointer to push the Cyclones’ lead to 63-52 and then added a putback to make it 65-52.
After Amric Fields’ two free throws cut the deficit to 10 with 6:20 left, Ejim answered with consecutive dunks, the second coming courtesy of a perfect lob pass from Georges Niang.
Ejim scored 15 of his 48 points in the final six minutes. He entered the game leading the Big 12 with 18.3 points per game. The previous single-game record in the Big 12 was 44 points by former Kansas State players Denis Clemente and Michael Beasley.
“These guys just did a great job of finding me in transition and giving me the ball in places I could score,” said Ejim, who had 15 points and nine rebounds at halftime. “They made really selfless plays. They saw I was having a good night and they really looked out for me.”
TCU (9-13, 0-10) trailed 32-22 at halftime thanks to two Kyan Anderson 3-pointers in the final 1:16. Anderson tied a season-high with 27 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range. He also had eight assists.
But Anderson’s big day was overshadowed by Ejim, who made 20 of 24 shots, including 2 of 2 from 3-point range. His 20 field goals are also a Big 12 single-game record. His teammates combined for just 12 field goals.
Anderson said he’s never seen an opposing player dominate a game like Ejim.
“It’s not every day a guy comes out and scores that many points,” said Anderson, who surpassed 1,000 career points Saturday. “They felt they had a mismatch and they abused it. I definitely tip my hat to him.”
The last player to so thoroughly dominate a game against the Frogs was former BYU star Jimmer Fredette, who scored 45 points against TCU in 2010.
For Ejim, who wasn’t exactly a secret among Big 12 coaches and fans, it’s likely the start of a bigger national profile.
“We were just playing and I really wasn’t looking up to see how much I had. … I think I figured it out when they started chanting my name,” he said. “It was a great feeling.”