Takeaways From ISU's 80-73 Loss at KSU

A lot happened Saturday in the Little Apple as Iowa State dropped into a four-team tie for second place in the Big 12. We unpack most of it — including Melvin Ejim's fantastic-yet-frustrating night — and lay out the road ahead to Kansas City

Just like that, one Will Spradling three-pointer, and Iowa State must win Tuesday to avoid an unfavorable draw in the Big 12 tournament (you again, Kansas?).

Plenty more happened in No. 15 Iowa State's 80-73 loss to KSU on Saturday in Manhattan — Melvin Ejim had a brilliant 30-point, 16-rebound line, but was disappointing in other aspects, DeAndre Kane had another near triple-double, the team stunk from the foul line, the Cyclones got two bench points, plenty of key figures on either side were stuck in foul trouble — but it had pretty much come down to this after a Monte Morris three.

69-all, 1:38 left, and Spradling strokes his only three-pointer of the night for a three-point lead. Georges Niang missed a retort at the other end and then the foul-and-free-throw parade began, a few missed layups and jumpers mixed in for the Cyclones.

Four teams are now stuck in a tie for second place in the conference with 10-6 league records. I've listed the schedules for the four second-place teams below with the kenpom.com rating of their opponents.

  • Iowa State: at Baylor (41), Oklahoma State (26).

  • Oklahoma: West Virginia (67), at TCU (234).

  • Texas: TCU (234), at Texas Tech (79).

  • Kansas State: at Oklahoma State (26), Baylor (41).

    The Sooners will probably win out while the Longhorns might get tripped up in Lubbock. The tiebreaker is the record against the league's top team, Kansas, and Texas and KSU have each topped the Jayhawks.

    Still a murky picture for another week, but there will be clarity after Tuesday. The Cyclones are 2-7 at Baylor since Big 12 play began but won there last season, 87-82, behind 20 points from Melvin Ejim and 15 from Niang.

    Thoughts on the Kansas State game

    So, I guess I'll come out and say it, but Melvin EJim has to keep a cooler head. If I had told you before the season a senior Cyclone would be second in the NCAA in technical fouls, you would have all said, "Geez, DeAndre, get a grip!"

    Instead, it's Ejim, who has been T'd up four times this year and twice in the last two games. Some of those were silly calls, some weren't. He should still be the Big 12 Player of the Year and he should always keep the fire that drives him, but you can be really good while being smart. I'm not going to moralize on him flicking off BYU's student section or trash-talking opponents (the latter being the reason for tonight's technical) but it's really the attitude toward the referees.

    Arguing a foul got Ejim a technical, and his fourth foul, minutes into the second half Wednesday against West Virginia, making the act of arguing totally counterproductive, and he's lucky the team played well while he was on the bench most of the period.

    Ejim jumped off the floor Saturday after being whistled and started to heatedly debate the call. Some teammates held him back from what easily could have been his second technical of the night.

    Nonetheless, Ejim went to the bench with his fourth foul at 7:55 in the second half, ISU up 62-60. His next recorded stat came at 3:47, an offensive rebound, with ISU down 63-68.

    That's been a problem for ISU, getting so mouthy with the refs. There have been cases of players, in the middle of action, turning to an official and griping. Perry Ellis got an easy dunk against Kansas when Dustin Hogue did this in early January. Ejim did it Wednesday. It hasn't been something to talk about because the team's been playing so well, but maybe Fred Hoiberg will feel convicted to address it, if he hasn't already. Like them or not, agree with them or not, the zebras — as maddening as they are — have much of the power. It's just not smart for a player to get after them.

  • Phew, OK. That said, tonight's box score belongs in the pantheon for Ejim. Thirty points on 10-for-18 shooting, 3-for-7 from distance, 7-for-9 from the free throw line. Two steals, a block. The four fouls, yes, for the fifth straight game. Nine offensive rebounds.

    He's all but locked up Big 12 Player of the Year. Ejim would really have to stink not to get the award, in which case it might go to Ames, anyway, and just to Kane.

  • Iowa State had 20 offensive rebounds. Kansas State is ninth in defensive rebounding rate in conference games, but still, that's pretty good.

  • In conference play, the Wildcats have been holding teams to a 44.8 effective field goal percentage, No. 1 in the Big 12, and Saturday Iowa State shot 34.8 from the field. Ejim (55.5 percent) and Kane (53.8) were the only Cyclones to manage better than 50 percent from the floor. Niang was 3-for-14 with eight points, Dustin Hogue was 1-for-5 with two points — but at least had 12 rebounds — and Monte Morris was 2-for-5 with seven points and had two assists to no turnovers.

  • Free throws, let's talk about 'em. ISU was 20-for-30 from the stripe (66.7 percent). Kenpom.com is telling me ISU is shooting 69 percent for the season, No. 207 nationally, and 68.1 percent in Big 12 play, No. 8 in the conference.

  • Think the Cyclones wouldn't mind facing Kansas State against in Kansas City, so long as Shane Southwell doesn't drill four three-pointers again.

  • In other Iowa State news, Bill Fennelly's bunch won its third straight game Saturday at Kansas, 87-79, to move to 9-8 in the Big 12 with one game remaining, home against Baylor. Looks like the Cyclones will be dancing, after all.

  • My Big 12 Awards race, with a week left …

  • First team:

    PG: DeAndre Kane

    G: Juwan Staten

    F: Andrew Wiggins

    F: Melvin Ejim

    C: Joel Embiid

  • POY: Ejim

  • Newcomer of the Year: Kane

  • Frosh of the Year: Joel Embiid (he uses slightly more possessions for KU than Wiggins and is better in all the pertinent categories per his possession)

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