As important as it is to make quick work of deadline so fans and viewers will having something to read while flipping off the game or leaving the stadium, the content is always better after some time to think.
Presenting 10 late-night, early-morning thoughts from Iowa State 77, Michigan 70.
1. Where does Sunday afternoon stack up with the best of Melvin Ejim? It's the seventh time the senior scored 20 points or more, and he chipped in nine rebounds (it felt like more).
Four times Ejim has posted at least a 20-10 line — against Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor and Drake, all last season.
Was this, in just 28 minutes, also taking into account three steals and a block, his best game?
You tell me. I'd say so, given him just coming off injury, and the super production in fewer minutes, and all the plays he made that changed the fabric of the game — the three-pointer, the block, the double-pump and-one.
|Ejim's Best? Stats -|
2. I tweeted this in the first half, but that game might have gotten out of hand without Ejim, just because of Michigan's size down low with Mitch McGary and Jon Horford, and with Georges Niang clearly pressing (traveled on his first post move) and in foul trouble.
The Wolverines ended up with a one-point advantage on the boards.
3. Matt Thomas had a very poor day, missing his three three-point attempts and going 1-for-6 from the floor. I actually thought he was a bit hesitant, passing up shots in his wheelhouse just because the ball wasn't falling his way. Once, he turned down an open three and stepped inside for a long two. Big no-no. The worst shot in basketball.
4. If Naz Long can carry a smidgen of this into March, the Cyclones are going to go on a nice tournament run. After an underwhelming exhibition, I wondered why Naz was in the starting lineup, rather than a different look, with Dustin Hogue at the three and Percy Gibson or Edozie in the front court.
But Long has been insane through three games; his four three-pointers kept Iowa State in the game today.
5. DeAndre Kane shouldn't be taking three three-pointers in a game — his career averages behind the arc aren't pretty, and we're too late into his career for that to change — but hitting one, or just having on tape that he can hit one, can do a world of good for an offense that craves space.
6. Fred Hoiberg's manipulation of the rotation had the feel of a postseason game, as only seven guys played, compared to nine for Michigan. Hoiberg clearly isn't comfortable throwing Daniel Edozie, Percy Gibson, Sherron Dorsey-Walker or K.J. Bluford into the fire yet — and so he's probably tickled Ejim had an early return.
While it's great to have a challenging non conference schedule, the downside is it gives the inexperienced and untested players little time to get in a groove, work with the other guys and build some confidence. I'm surprised Edozie didn't get any minutes with Niang heading to the bench early in the second half with four fouls, but the Cyclones simply played small and thanked their lucky stars Ejim, the rebounding maven, was good to go.
7. Monté Morris and Matt Thomas, on the other hand, do get to play, because they're so talented and even-keeled. Morris had a bleh game (two points on 1-for-4 shooting, two missed threes, three assists to two turnovers), but his game-within-the-game against Michigan's Derrick Walton Jr. is something we might look back on in two or three years when each is an elite player at the college level. Walton got the better of his friend Sunday, scoring 13 points.
8. Of all the Wolverines, I was most excited to watch the sweet-shooting Nik Stauskas. He didn't disappoint, scoring 20 points and hitting four of 10 three-pointers. Second on the list, before we knew McGary was playing, was Glenn Robinson III. Color me unmoved. The sophomore took too many bad shots (4-for-14 and 1-for-5 from three-). He did serious damage at the defensive end, though, with four steals.
McGary also had four steals. He and Robinson (who should go by Trey, as many "thirds" do, and help Michigan get over the loss of Trey Burke) made up the Wolverines' entire total, still double Iowa State's.
9. An already-tired Dick Vitale walked into the media room an hour before tip-off and sauntered over to where I was sitting at the end of a table. He plopped into a chair and said, "How do you spell Ejim? I have a feeling he's going to play."
I looked at Vitale and said, "E-J-I-M, and yes he is."
So Vitale types that up on his Twitter and then hands me the phone for some proof-reading. Everything's good, but he has McGary as "Mc Gary," so I just nixed the spacing there. I thought about inserting my @All_Cyclones Twitter handle in there.
A stupidly brilliant thought popped into my head when Vitale was sitting next to me as he was spelling out M-C-G-A-R-Y. The best player in the Big Ten, if you combine perhaps the two best:
Mitch McGary Harris
That's just bad, isn't it?
10. Another early college basketball game that lives up to incredible hype. Michigan State-Kentucky. Kansas-Duke. Now this one, sure to bump the Cyclones into the Top 25. It's a really good sign for a sport that has a very intelligent, almost cultish following (the analytics and the with-us-or-you're-against-us mentality), especially after what I thought was a slightly disappointing year in 2012-13.
Bonus Thought: I still have a headache from the crowd noise. Growing up in Austin, I've seen several really good basketball games, and even some good crowds, but the cavernous Erwin Center doesn't allow for deafening acoustics, and the fans aren't the same. I've done a few Knicks games at Madison Square Garden (the smartest fans in the NBA) during the height of Linsanity, and that was pretty sweet, but it's a much, much bigger arena, and the beehive feel doesn't exist. A++ for Hilton Coliseum today.