Melvin Ejim stood under the opposing team’s hoop, exhausted but grinning.
With 20 seconds left on the clock and only then did it start to sink in that he, the underrated; the under-appreciated; the undersized, had undeniably put together one of the best performances in Iowa State’s history.
“Melvin Ejim, Melvin Ejim,” rang from all 14,384 fans. All standing, all chanting, all witnessing the best scoring performance in Big 12 history.
Then Ejim walked back through a blitzkrieg of high-fives and hugs. His teammates — who he gave all the credit to — all found a way to get a hand on Ejim and his 48 points — the second-best scoring output Hilton has seen, only behind the famous 102-100 overtime game in which Lafester Rhodes scored 54.
And now it isn’t the super-talented Kevin Durant, it’s not the unbelievably athletic Blake Griffin and it isn't the unstoppable scoring Michael Beasley, but the often-overlooked Melvin Ejim who holds the mark for most points scored in a Big 12 game with 48.
“It’s rewarding,” Ejim said. “It’s good to see that your hard work has paid off. The endless hours that you put in the gym in the summers working out trying to get better every day.”
At the half, No. 16 Iowa State led 32-22, led by Ejim’s 15 points and nine rebounds. A good start to what could be a career day.
But a day that would break records? It didn’t become apparent until down the stretch in the second half.
With 9:02 remaining in the second half, the Cyclones only led 57-50. Up to that point, Ejim had put together a career-tying 23 points with 15 rebounds. Then, over the next six and 1/2 minutes, he was unstoppable.
Ejim went on a tear, scoring the next 20 points for Iowa State with seven made baskets, six of which came by way of assists, including an alley-oop DeAndre Kane threw just past half court. He finished scoring 24 of the final 26 points for Iowa State.
“Just the efficiency of his game, scoring 48 points on 24 shots,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “Melvin is exactly right, I thought his teammates did an exceptional job of finding him.”
His teammates found him early and they kept feeding him.
It wasn’t just that he finished with 48 points, it was how. He made 20 of his 24 shots, 15 of which were dunks or layups in the paint. He set a new career-high with 18 rebounds. He set a new Big 12 record for field goals in a game, while tying Lafester Rhodes’ 20 field goals in 1987 against the Hawkeyes for the ISU record.
It took Ejim hearing his name chanted for him to realize what kind of a night he had. It might’ve taken until Saturday's record-breaking game for him to be finally appreciated. Then, as Ejim walked back through the barrage of chest bumps and back slaps, he was all smiles.
“At that point I was soaking it in, guys kept congratulating me,” Ejim said. “It was a great feeling, it was an awesome feeling and I’m glad I could experience it with these guys.”
After his record-shattering night, Iowa State's Melvin Ejim has the nation on alert
Iowa State Daily | Feb 9