Ejim & Christofferson are in a “class” and on a “court” by themselves

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Iowa State’s Hallie Christofferson and Melvin Ejim are pace setters among Big 12 student-athletes.

 In her most visible role as a basketball player, Christofferson currently ranks in the league’s Top 10 in seven different categories:  FT% (1st), scoring (2nd), defensive rebounds (5th), minutes (6th), rebounds (8th), blocked shots (10th) and offensive rebounds (10th).

 Baylor’s Odyssey Sims is the only other Big 12 women’s basketball player ranked in the Top 10 in seven different categories.

 As a much-celebrated athlete, Ejim also resides in the conference’s Top 10 in seven different stats:  scoring (1st), FG% (4th), defensive rebounds (7th), minutes (8th), FT% (8th), offensive rebounds (9th) and rebounds (10th).

 Teammate DeAndre Kane and West Virginia’s Juwan Staten are the only other men’s players ranked among the Big 12’s Top 10 in seven statistics.

 Christofferson and Ejim share another honor and it’s far more significant than standing among the league’s stat leaders.

 Outside of the media glare and spotlight, each was named to the Capital One Academic All-District 6 team, as chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America, Thursday.

 Christofferson has a 3.43 GPA in graphic design and is a two-time Academic All-Big 12 selection. Ejim has a 3.7 grade-point average in history, is a two-time Academic All-Big 12 choice and was named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men’s basketball as a junior.

 The term “student-athlete” gets tossed around frequently without much thought to what it means. For Hallie and Melvin, being Cyclone student-athletes required a full commitment and focus to be exceptional on the court and in class.

 Their legacies at Iowa State University – when their college careers end a couple months from now – should be celebrated for many years.

 

The Big 12 may be small in number but it’s big with regard to wins over ranked opponents

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The Big 12 is doing more with less.

The men’s basketball programs in the 10-team league have already collected 23 wins over nationally ranked schools this season.

For comparison sake, the 10-team American Conference has a total of 7 wins vs. ranked foes in 2013-14 and the 10-team Big East Conference has 5. The Big Ten and Pac-12 Conferences – with 12 schools each – have recorded 17 and 10 wins against rated teams, while the 14-team SEC has 7 such wins and the 15-team ACC has 13 wins over ranked schools

Ten teams nation-wide have at least 3 victories over rated opponents this winter and 5 of them – Kansas, Iowa State, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State – reside in the Big 12.

The Big 12 may have just 10 members, but their signature wins lead its college basketball peers by a large margin.

 

It’ll be “No. 1 vs. No. 2″, at least in terms of wins vs. ranked foes

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When Kansas hosts Iowa State in men’s basketball Wednesday night, it will be #1 vs. #2. That is, at least, in terms of wins against other ranked schools this winter.

 The Jayhawks are 5-2 against schools who had national rankings when facing KU. No one has more than 5 such wins among the schools receiving votes in this week’s Associated Press poll.

 The Cyclones are 4-1 versus teams nationally rated at the time of their game vs. ISU. The only other school with 4 wins is fellow Big 12 member Texas (4-2).

 Seven of the Top 25 schools are still undefeated vs. fellow rated teams: Arizona (1-0), Syracuse (3-0), Wichita State (0-0), Cincinnati (1-0), Wisconsin (3-0), Creighton (1-0) and Massachusetts (1-0).

 ISU’s 80% winning rate in the games vs. ranked teams is the next best after the above 7 schools.

The Jayhawks win percentage (71%) in those contests follows the Cyclones.

 It’s a big match-up at Lawrence this week no matter how you slice it.

 But, based upon wins over ranked schools – the types of victories that are coveted for NCAA Tournament resumes – it’s “1 vs. 2” tomorrow night.

Hogue is a headliner in my book

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“It’s Thomas early and Ejim late as ISU ends skid”Gazetteonline.com

 “Niang, Ejim lift No. 16 Iowa State over No. 22 KSU”SI.com

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The Cyclone men’s basketball team picked up a big victory Saturday with its 81-75 triumph over nationally ranked Kansas State.

 The steady frontcourt duo of Georges Niang (15 first-half points) and Melvin Ejim (18 second-half points) led the way as they frequently do.

 Also busting into the major contributor role was freshman Matt Thomas (career-best 14 points). DeAndre Kane added a strong 10-5-5 (points-rebounds-assists) line.

 Not in the headlines again, however, was Dustin Hogue. He is making a living this season off being overlooked and yet making the plays that win games.

 Hogue took six shots in 25 minutes. Hogue led the team in boards (he had 12) and grit. Just like always.

 “I knew he was a little frustrated, but he kept his head in game,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “To go out there and get those rebounds is huge.”

 The strength of this Cyclone team is that the contributions come from everywhere.

 “They have 5 weapons and they stretch you out,” K-State Coach Bruce Weber said.

 The shooters normally get the headlines. That’s ok.

 The warriors, like Hogue, ice the wins. He deserved a headline, too.

Cyclone rotation might stretch a bit longer (and get bigger)

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Seven Cyclone men’s basketball players are averaging at least 20 minutes per game this season. Somewhat surprisingly, that’s the most of any Fred Hoiberg-coached team.

 Just two guys – DeAndre Kane (32.0 minutes) and Melvin Ejim (31.5) – are playing more than 30 minutes per game. That’s the fewest number during the Hoiberg era.

 Hoiberg suggested Monday that he might look to get additional players in the rotation. Specifically, he said that Percy Gibson and Daniel Edozie are primed for playing time.

 “Now that we’re playing more games in a shorter period of time, I’m going to have to get minutes out of those guys,” Hoiberg said.

 Beyond the “more-games-in-a-shorter-period-of-time” theory, Hoiberg is also a match-up guy.

 The Cyclones watched the Texas twosome of Cameron Ridley (6-9, 285) and Jonathan Holmes (6-8, 240) combine for 39 points on 69.6% FG shooting last Saturday. That Longhorn duo had averaged 23 points on 51% shooting prior to the game with ISU.

 With Kansas State’s 265-pound Thomas Gipson next on the agenda, a bit more size on the floor could be beneficial. Keep an eye on Gibson and/or Edozie. They may get an early call Saturday.

Movie time in players-only meeting

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The Cyclone men’s basketball squad had a players-only meeting Sunday.

 There always seems to be a curiosity from observers about those sessions. However, they are really fairly typical.

 “Every team is going to have players-only meetings throughout the course of a season,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said Monday.

 I’ve never been in one. Maybe, you haven’t either. But, there’s always an interest in them. Pundits will attempt to project how they will influence on-court performance.

 What was interesting about this meeting was that Hoiberg shared the team watched game video.

 “They did a players-only session in the film room,” Hoiberg said. “That was a big positive that the guys took the initiative to do that. (They) talked to one another and saw some of the things they did or didn’t do (in the losses).”

Admittedly, I don’t have much insight into players-only meetings, but the fact Sunday’s was geared to film study caught my attention. That is interesting. That is telling. That says something about the make-up of this club.

 “These guys care, they have a lot of heart and care for each other,” Hoiberg said. “When your players are like that, you’ve got a leg up (on others). Not everyone has them.”

Cyclones’ league ledger is slightly better than a year ago

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The Iowa State men’s basketball team is a win ahead of last year’s pace as it relates to Big 12 results.

 How so?

 A year ago, the Cyclones lost at Oklahoma, at Texas and vs. Kansas at home. ISU also beat Baylor in Ames.

 Those results have been duplicated this season.

 Iowa State’s biggest stumble in conference play last year was a loss at Texas Tech. The Cyclones beat Texas Tech on Jan. 4 in Lubbock.

 That win over the Red Raiders has Iowa State a game ahead of last year’s pace.

 There’s no doubt that Iowa State has to shore up a few things in its play. Coach Fred Hoiberg said as much Monday and suggested much of this week will be spent fine-tuning his team.

 The Cyclones’ 14-game winning streak to open the season set several program records and put ISU is a great position. A three-game losing streak isn’t cause for panic.

 It may not seem like it, but Iowa State is actually a game improved from last year’s first-division conference finish.

 The Cyclones rebounded from their surprising loss at Tech a year ago with a home court win against K-State, the eventual co-champions of the Big 12. The opportunity to bounce back presents itself again Saturday with the Wildcats visiting Ames.

Shooting a key and Hoiberg believes extra work means more makes

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Shooting a higher field goal percentage than the opposition has had a direct correlation with winning during the Fred Hoiberg era at Iowa State.

 The Cyclones are 64-6 in games they have made field goals at a better rate than the opponent. That stat is a better predictor for victory than making more FTs than the opponent (57-10 record), committing fewer turnovers (31-15) or registering more bench points (45-12).

 Prior to the KU game Monday, the Cyclones made fewer than 30% of their attempts from three-point range only three times this season: BYU (.292), George Mason (.238) and Texas Tech (.263). They followed those respective outings by hitting 37.5% vs. Kansas City, 47.4% vs. Akron and 40.0% vs. Baylor on long-range shots.

 ISU has demonstrated an ability to bounce back after a subpar shooting game and Hoiberg believes shooting your way back into form in practice is how confidence is restored.

 “We took a ton of shots (Wednesday) and went back to basics,” Hoiberg said. “The biggest thing is to get them as many reps as possible. The day after a game (like Kansas) you (seem to) make them all.”

 Hoiberg can also share personal experience with his players as it relates to regaining your shooting form. He’s done it.

 The former Chicago Bull missed all four of his three pointers at Indiana one night in 2001 and followed that up by making 7 of his next 8 three-point attempts in games vs. New Jersey and Philadelphia. Multiple other bounce back performances are part of Hoiberg’s NBA game logs.

 Saturday afternoon the Cyclones have a chance to show their work in the gym this week had the desired effect when they play at Texas.

Gadson trying to live up to “Showtime” nickname

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Kyven Gadson picked up a big win last weekend, upending second-ranked Travis Rutt (Oklahoma) with a takedown in overtime. The 3-1 triumph boosted his record to 14-2, but it almost cost him his nickname.

 “His nickname is ‘Showtime’,” Coach Kevin Jackson said. “I don’t want to have to take that ‘Showtime’ nickname away from him.”

 Jackson has noted a cautious Gadson on occasion this season. Jackson doesn’t remember Gadson losing a scramble or scoring points when the action is heavy. Not being aggressive on offense, however, has put Gadson in some tough situations.

 “We need to see more of that action that we saw in overtime (vs. OU) during the match,” Jackson said of the third-rated Gadson. “Sometimes, he worries more about the win than dominating.”

 Through 16 matches this season, Gadson has five falls. His decisions have come by an average of 3.8 points. He has three one-point wins.

 Last year As a sophomore, Gadson’s decisions were by an average of 4.5 points.

 Jackson knows the potential of his prized pupil when he cuts it loose and feels the overtime win over a strong Sooner opponent is more proof to Gadson that he should wrestle aggressively.

 Wins are great and Gadson is collecting them at a high rate, but Jackson wants to see him start living up to his nickname on a consistent basis, too.

League scheduling guarantees showcase performers visit Ames

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Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins likely played at Iowa State for the last time Monday night. The freshmen duo combined for 33 points and 28 rebounds.

 Most professional basketball personnel people have the pair of Jayhawks in the top 2-3 prospects for the 2014 National Basketball Association draft. About 20 scouts were in Ames to watch them in person last night.

 “I think Embiid is the best player in the country,” Iowa State Coach Fred Hoiberg, a former NBA personnel guy himself, said.

 Current NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant also had scouts drooling when he toured (part of) the Big 12 in 2006-07. Durant, the one-year Texas star, never played in Hilton Coliseum.

 When the landscape for college conferences steadied a couple years back, the Big 12 settled in with 10 teams and a round-robin schedule. Gone were the days when a star like Durant never made an appearance at ISU.

 Certainly, the impact of Embiid and Wiggins hurt the Cyclones’ won-loss ledger. As a Big 12 basketball follower, however, I appreciated seeing them in person at Iowa State albeit just once.