Melvin Ejim

After two impressive wins against conference opponents, Texas fell victim to the strength of the Big 12 on Tuesday night.

At the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, No. 19 Texas (20-6, 9-4 Big 12) had trouble pulling past No. 17 Iowa State (20-5, 8-5 Big 12), falling to the Cyclones 85-76. 

Texas failed to control the Big 12’s leading scorer, Melvin Ejim, who coming into Tuesday’s contest averaged 18.9 points per game. Ejim tallied 25 points and eight rebounds, leading Iowa State to a split in the season series with Texas. But Ejim wasn’t the only player who gave the Longhorns trouble; a total of three Cyclones passed the 20-point mark on the night.

Iowa State controlled the first frame of the top-25 matchup as Texas shot just 27 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes. Down by nine to start the second half, the Longhorns traded baskets with the Cyclones to remain close for the rest of the game, but could never pull past Iowa State, despite tieing the game with 14 minutes left.

The last 10 minutes created the large final-score gap for the Cyclones. Iowa State went on a 12-4 run in that span of the game to secure their 20th win of the season.

Freshman guard Isaiah Taylor led Texas with a game-high 26 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Cameron Ridley, who averaged 14.5 points per game in the last two contests, recorded just four points and five rebounds against Iowa State as Texas shot a mere 32.9 percent from the floor. 

The Longhorns now face losing two straight for the first time since the start of Big 12 play as they travel to Lawrence, Kan., to face the Jayhawks on Saturday.

Sophomore guard Javan Felix is defended by Melvin Ejim during Texas' matchup against the Cyclones last month. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

On Saturday night, the Longhorns found a way to slow down the Big 12’s second leading scorer, Juwan Staten, en route to a victory over West Virginia. Three days later, they’ll have to stop the only man ahead of Staten if they want the same result.

Senior forward Melvin Ejim — who averages a conference-best 18.9 points per game — and his No. 17 Iowa State Cyclones welcome No. 19 Texas to Ames for a top-25 matchup at Hilton Coliseum tonight.

“[Ejim’s] a scary guy,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “He’s put up some unbelievable numbers. He’s been one of those guys that has had an incredible impact on their program.”

Unlike Staten, a true point guard who was defended by Javan Felix and Isaiah Taylor, Ejim plays on the wing and will likely be guarded by Texas’ defensive specialist, Demarcus Holland. Holland’s athleticism and deceptive length should help slow down Ejim, who can score from anywhere on the floor.

Ejim was effective in Iowa State’s 86-76 loss at the Frank Erwin Center last month. The Canadian player had a double-double with 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting and 10 rebounds.

But the Longhorns’ team defense has improved significantly since the last time these two teams met, and, if Texas’ most recent performance is any indication, Ejim could be in for a long night.

“Our defense has been the most improved aspect of our game,” Barnes said. “We’ve stopped fouling as much. We still have some things to work on, but it’s getting better.”

Offensively, the Longhorns will once again rely on their size and strength inside to overwhelm Iowa State’s undersized front court. Junior forward Jonathan Holmes and sophomore center Cameron Ridley combined for 39 points and seven offensive boards in the first meeting. Those two, combined with Holland’s defensive work ethic, have been the key to the Longhorns’ rebounding success.

“The length has a lot to do with [the rebounding],” Barnes said. “You’ve also got two guys — in Jonathan Holmes and Demarcus Holland — who put in tremendous effort. That kind of effort is what gets us the extra possessions that we need.”

Sophomore center Cameron Ridley will need to play well inside for the Longhorns when they take on Iowa State this weekend. Ridley is currently averaging 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in Big 12 play. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ first chance to make a statement in its pursuit of an NCAA Tournament bid will come at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center.

Eight of the Longhorns’ final 14 games are against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 and the first of those games will be at home against No. 8 Iowa State (14-2, 2-2 Big 12).

“These conference games will be tough,” sophomore center Cameron Ridley said. “But we’re just going to treat those games just like every other. Play as hard as we can and play with the confidence we’ve been playing with.”

Despite what the two teams’ records might indicate, Texas (13-4, 2-2 Big 12) is likely the more confident team heading into the contest. The Longhorns go into Saturday on a two-game win streak, fresh off an impressive road victory over West Virginia in Morgantown, W. Va.

Head coach Rick Barnes’ veteran trio of Ridley, junior Jonathan Holmes and sophomore Javan Felix have all impressed early on in conference play, averaging 10.3, 10.8 and 15.8 points per game, respectively, through the first four games. Ridley and Holmes are also contributing in the rebounding department, each having already recorded a double-double and each averaging 7.3 rebounds per game in Big 12 play.

Iowa State, in contrast, enters the game on a two-game losing streak. After starting the season on a 14-game win streak, the Cyclones dropped their last two games, on the road against No. 25 Oklahoma and at home against No. 15 Kansas.

The Cyclones rely heavily on senior forward Melvin Ejim, who is second in the conference in scoring with 17.8 points per game. Ejim, the lanky Toronto native, is known as a physically gifted, inside-outside threat who can score from anywhere on the court. Couple him with do-it-all senior guard DeAndre Kane, who runs Iowa State’s offense, and you’ve got a potent scoring duo. Kane is averaging 16.8 points, 7.3 assists and 5.9 assists per game.

The Longhorns and Cyclones have two common opponents so far this season — they each played BYU in non-conference play, and they have each already taken on Oklahoma in conference play. With both teams having developed significantly since their respective meetings with the Cougars, a look at their respective contests against the Sooners is a much better representation of how the two teams match up.

Both Texas and Iowa State lost to Oklahoma. The Longhorns suffered a close 88-85 loss at home while the Cyclones lost 87–82 on the road in Norman. Both teams evidently struggled to slow down the Sooners’ scoring offense, but a closer look at the two games demonstrates where the scoring came from: second-chance points. Both Texas and Iowa State had better field goal percentages than Oklahoma in those matchups, but each team was heavily out-rebounded.

Regardless of their difference in ranking, the Cyclones and Longhorns appear to be very evenly matched on paper, so fans should be in for a good one at The Drum this weekend. It may not matter which group hits a greater percentage of their shots, but which team can corral more of the missed ones.

Freshman Ioannis Papapetrou celebrates after scoring the final basket in regulation, a three-pointer to send the Longhorns into overtime Wednesday. 

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Why Texas Won - Sheldon McClellan scored all 10 of the Longhorns’ points in the second overtime and led Texas with 18 total points. McClellan was also a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line and pulled down a team-high three offensive boards. With Myck Kabongo and Jonathan Holmes fouled out, McClellan took the game into his own hands in overtime and finally showed he can make tough shots down the stretch. One of the best performances McClellan has had all season.

First Half: Texas shot 50 percent from the field but turned the ball over eight times and trailed by four points at the intermission. Connor Lammert scored seven points and Kabongo logged 20 minutes of action, adding six points and five assists. Iowa State’s Will Clyburn hit all five of his free throws on his way to 11 first-half points. Melvin Ejim added eight points and seven rebounds for the Cyclones.

Second Half/Overtimes: The Longhorns and Cyclones exchanged baskets for much of the second half, but with under two seconds to play freshman forward Ioannis Papapetrou connected on a long three-pointer, tying the game at 71-71. Kabongo would score the Longhorns’ first bucket in overtime and would assist on a Julien Lewis three-pointer on Texas’ next possession. Lewis hit two threes in the first overtime, his only points on the night. The Longhorns did not miss a free throw in either overtime and shot 80 percent from the charity stripe for the game. Although three Cyclones scored 20 or more points, the Longhorns held them to 35 percent shooting from the field.

—Nick Cremona

Stock Up - Connor Lammert: The freshman scored a career-high 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting, added six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal as time expired in the second overtime period. He had some trouble containing Melvin Ejim on the defensive end, but Lammert really stepped up after Jonathan Holmes fouled out in the first overtime.

By The Numbers - 80: Number of field goal attempts for Iowa State, 19 more than Texas attempted.

5: Texas players who scored in double figures: Sheldon McClellan, Ioannis Papapetrou, Connor Lammert, Myck Kabongo and Javan Felix.

7: Offensive rebounds for Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim. Texas had nine total offensive rebounds.

35: Minutes Myck Kabongo played in his season debut after serving a 23-game suspension.

The Top 5 forwards/centers in the Big 12: KU's Jeff Withey leads a deep group of big men

With eight of the top-10 scorers in the Big 12 so far in the 2012-2013 season being guards, to say that guards have dominated would be an understatement. Despite this, the following big men have made tremendous contributions to their teams through the first half of conference play.

1. Jeff Withey, C, Kansas - Withey has followed up his record-setting NCAA tournament (31 blocks in the last year's tournament, breaking Joakim Noah’s mark of 29 in 2006), with a strong senior year in which he has averaged four blocks a game. With Thomas Robinson foregoing his senior season, Withey has been the go-to guy down low for the Jayhawks. Withey played solid in Kansas’ shocking loss to TCU on Wednesday night, with 12 points and eight rebounds which is just around his season averages. He is currently a projected first-round pick and should be consensus all Big 12.

2. Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor - Austin was the third-ranked recruit coming out of high school, according to ESPN, and is playing the part. Through ten games, he leads the Big 12 in rebounds a game grabbing 10.9 per contest, up from his 9.7 overall. Austin ranks eighth in the Big 12 in scoring (14) in Big 12 contests, and is tied with Melvin Ejim of Iowa State for the Big 12’s lead in double-doubles (nine). He is a projected top-10 pick in this summer’s draft, assuming he forgoes his remaining eligibility.

3. Romero Osby, F, Oklahoma - Osby’s play has been a big factor in Oklahoma’s midpoint turnaround of five Big 12 victories, after averaging only 4.7 wins in conference play the previous three years. Osby is scoring at a rate of 13.9 points per game, good for the most on the Sooners including a career-high 29 points against Texas. He is shooting 50.8 percent from the field for the year, and leads OU in rebounds with nearly seven boards a game for the season. Osby’s play in the second half of the season will be key for the Sooners if they are to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in the post-Blake Griffin era.

4. Cory Jefferson, F, Baylor - Though he does not get the attention of his counterpart, Austin, Jefferson has put together a solid season for the Bears and has shown massive improvement from his first two seasons in Waco. Jefferson has been a crucial piece of the Bears’ attack thus far, averaging 12.7 points and 8.4 boards a game for the season. He scored 18 points and grabbed 11 boards in Baylor’s 69-67 loss to Oklahoma State in
overtime Wednesday.

5. Melvin Ejim, F, Iowa State – Ejim is averaging almost a double-double a game for the Cyclones with 10.3 points and 9.4 boards per contest, and is tied with Baylor’s Austin for the lead in the double-double category at nine. For the year, Ejim’s rebounding total is the second best in the Big 12, despite being only 6-foot-6.

Honorable mentions: Jonathan Holmes, F, Texas; Aaric Murray, C, West Virginia