Tonight, at the Coliseum, it is about greatness.
Part of it is obvious, considering what No. 16 Iowa State is bringing to town as it tries to keep West Virginia University from rebounding from its 83-69 loss at No. 8 Kansas and get back on the winning track in a 7 p.m. game that will be shown on ESPNU.
The central figure in the game will be the Cyclones’ Melvin Ejim. Going into the TCU game that they breezed through on Saturday, he was the Big 12’s leading scorer this season.
He came out of the game as the all-time leading scorer, at least in a single game, not only putting 48 points on a rather dismal group of defenders but also doing it in high style, hitting 20 of 24 field goal attempts.
“This will get a lot of national attention obviously,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said, “because of the fact it’s a Big 12 record and there’s been some pretty special players that have gone through this league.
“(Kevin) Durant and Blake Griffin and all the great players that have gone through this league ... Melvin Ejim’s name is at the top for points, and that’s unbelievable for a guy that probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.”
Which brings us to another player who doesn’t get the credit that he deserves, although the world is beginning to discover West Virginia’s Juwan Staten, who will try to engineer a second consecutive home upset of a nationally ranked team for the Mountaineers, who last toppled Oklahoma last Wednesday.
Now Staten understands what Ejim did — which also included 18 rebounds, which we had neglected to mention until now — and spoke about it with reporters in Kansas before jumping on the team plane and heading home.
“That’s amazing,” Staten said. “Forty-eight points is amazing, no matter who you’re going against. He’s a great player and he’s playing great. I don’t have too much to say about that, especially since we’re playing them. That’s not really good for us if he’s scoring the ball like that.”
And, when you consider WVU has hardly been very good at the defensive end this season, it kind of indicates a shootout upcoming at the Coliseum.
Which gets us back to Staten and what he’s been doing over in this breakout season that comes on the heels of a dismal introductory year after transferring from Dayton.
John Antonik of WVU’s sports communications office and its Internet guru took note of the many miracles Staten has been performing and decided to some research last week, writing:
“While scanning Staten’s stat line, I noticed that he has a great shot of surpassing 500 points, 150 assists and 150 rebounds this year. Right now (before the Kansas game in which he scored 22 with four rebounds and four assists) the Dayton, Ohio, resident shows 416 points, 138 rebounds and 137 assists with eight regular-season games remaining before the Phillips 66 Big 12 tournament begins on March 12.
“So I asked our resident stat guru, Mark DeVault, to run the numbers and come up with all of the instances in WVU history when a player has scored more than 500 points, pulled down more than 150 rebounds and handed out more than 150 assists.
“Well, DeVault’s computer is still searching because it’s never happened.”
Think about what that means. You have tonight in Ejim a guy who scored more points in a game than Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin for a Big 12 record going against a guy with a combination of talents unmatched by the likes of Jerry West, Rod Hundley and Rod Thorn.
This is not to say pass Go! and send Staten directly to the Hall of Fame yet.
But it is staggering to note that Staten has run the offense, setting up his teammates while, at the same time, taking over the role of top scorer and being the second-leading rebounder on the team.
Antonik noted that the player closest to creating a 500-150-150 club was All-American guard Fritz Williams, who scored 552 points with 153 assists and 149 rebounds back when the Beatles were at their height in 1966.
West, Thorn and Hundley didn’t miss by much, West scoring 908 points (yes, we know, players are satisfied with 1,000 in a career and West had 908 in a year), along with 510 rebounds and 134 assists in 1960. That, by the way, was a 29.3 scoring average.
Thorn as senior in 1963 scored 652 points, grabbed 262 rebounds after having grabbed 351 as a junior and had 121 assists following 119 his junior year.
He put together consecutive years with 798 points, 392 rebounds and 101 assists in 1956, and with 671 points and 305 rebounds and 126 assists in 1957.
So that is what is about this evening in the Coliseum in what should be a fun — and important — Big 12 matchup.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel
Tonight, at the Coliseum, it is about greatness.
- Bob Herzel
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