Melvin Ejim is no Kevin Garnett, but he may be a superior pregame award recipient.
Ejim was presented with the Big 12 Player of the Year trophy before Iowa State’s 91-85 win over Kansas State in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament Thursday afternoon.
The senior forward scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, his sixth 20-10 game of the year.
“He hit some big free throws for us again and really helped us do the job on the glass,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We felt if we won the battle on the boards that we would have a very good chance of winning this game. Melvin certainly helps us in that department.”
The Cyclones fared better than Hoiberg’s Minnesota Timberwolves did after Garnett accepted the NBA MVP trophy before the first game of the 2004 Western Conference Finals. Garnett also had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but in a losing effort as the Timberwolves fell to the Lakers 97-88.
“We went out there and laid an egg because of the emotion,” Hoiberg recalled. “I was a little concerned about that and tried to downplay it as much as I could today.”
Whatever Hoiberg did, it worked.
Self praises Cowboys
Despite their 77-70 overtime loss to Kansas in the Big 12 quarterfinals Thursday, Oklahoma State is still likely to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Cowboys could be one of those pesky No. 8 or 9 seeds that gives a No. 1 seed trouble in its second game of the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas coach Bill Self believes the seed the Cowboys are given won’t reflect how well they are playing now.
“I’ve had teams in the past that were a three-seed that were probably playing like a six- or seven-seed, and I’ve had teams that were a seven-seed playing like a two or three seed,” Self said after his team’s victory Thursday. “Oklahoma State, whatever they’re seeded, they’re playing a lot better than that.”
Before falling to the Jayhawks, Oklahoma State had won five of its past six games following a crippling seven-game losing streak.
They nearly knocked off Kansas, the top seed in this week’s Big 12 tournament, but didn’t score in the final four minutes of the game and will await their NCAA Tournament fate.
“The problem they have, from my vantage point, they’re not quite as deep as maybe some other teams,” Self said. “But if they can stay out of foul trouble, they can play with anybody.”
Briefly• Tubby Smith wrapped up the first losing season of his 23-year coaching career with Texas Tech’s 80-62 loss to Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
• Iowa State freshman point guard Monte Morris, already on pace to break the NCAA single-season record for assist-to-turnover ratio (3.96), had 10 assists and just one turnover in the Cyclones’ 91-85 victory over Kansas State on Thursday. He’s averaging 5.7 assists for every turnover he’s committed this year.
• Former Longhorns guard Sterling Gibbs, who transferred to Seton Hall after his freshman season in 2012, hit a buzzer-beating jumper to help the Pirates upset No. 3 Villanova 64-63 in the Big East quarterfinals Thursday.