Reeling Cyclones ready for No. 5 Texas


Forward Melvin Ejim attempts to secure a rebound during the first half of the game against Missouri on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. The Tigers defeated the Cyclones 76-70.

Chris Cuellar

Iowa State and Texas will each be coming off losses from Saturday when they tip at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Austin, Texas.

The similarities between the seasons for the Cyclones (14-13, 1-11 Big 12) and the No. 5 Longhorns (23-4, 11-1 Big 12) basically stop there.

Coach Fred Hoiberg’s team is trying to stay positive in the midst of a nine-game losing streak, but taking on the Big 12-leading Longhorns on the road isn’t the recipe for an easy, bounce-back win.

“This is not exactly what we wanted, going down to Texas with them coming off a loss,” Hoiberg said lightly at his weekly news conference Monday. “You want to go down there hoping their guard is down a little bit, but I don’t think [coach] Rick Barnes will let that happen.”

The Longhorns have won games with a capable and balanced offense and tight defense, bolstered by a deep bench. Nine Texas players average at least 10 minutes of action per game.

Leading the Texas offensive attack is sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton, a 6-foot-7 scorer that puts up 18.7 points per game.

“He’s a lottery pick — a guy that size on the wing is what you look for in the league,” Hoiberg said of Hamilton. “He shoots the heck out of it, he’s got a great first step and he can finish. It obviously causes a matchup problem for us.”

The task of defending Hamilton falls to this week’s Big 12 Co-Rookie of the Week, senior Jake Anderson.

Iowa State’s 6-foot-2 guard is in his last and only year of eligibilty in Ames, and while he gives up plenty of size to Hamilton, he’s going to keep pushing with just a few games left in his college career. 

“My career is about to end, especially at the collegiate level,” Anderson said. “I’m trying to seize my moments that I have with these guys. I just want to go out happy. It has been everything that I wanted, what I needed, displaying my talents without the ball.”

Iowa State’s freshman forward Melvin Ejim hasn’t played the Longhorns in his college career, but has some familiarity within the program.

A Toronto native, Ejim grew up playing with Texas starters Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, two other Canadian freshmen that wound up down South.

“I haven’t seen them in a while and they’ve both been doing really well  — Texas is doing really well,” Ejim said. “Tristan’s been working on his jump shot, which is coming along, and he’s just gotten stronger. Cory’s always been a complete guard, and he’s just showing it now right on a national level.”

In the absence of senior forward Jamie Vanderbeken, Ejim has had to play an increased role against larger bodies in Big 12 play. While struggling at the outset of the tougher competition, Ejim has averaged a solid 11 points and eight rebounds per game in his last three contests.

“He’s been awesome the last week and a half, every game now he’s bringing energy and intensity,” Hoiberg said. “Sometimes young players, it takes them a little while to learn that.”

Vanderbeken is continuing to rehabilitate his injured ankle, but Hoiberg announced Monday that whether or not he makes the trip to Austin will depend on his health.

“We’ll go through practice, go through some warm-ups, see if he can run and cut and go game speed,” Hoiberg said. “We’re trying to give him all the time off he can handle.”