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Big 4 Classic: The 4 players to watch and you vote (who will win?)

[ 0 ] December 6, 2013 |

MELVIN EJIM — Iowa State

Melvin Ejim doesn’t toss and turn about it. He’s not losing sleep because the 17th-ranked Iowa State basketball team on which he stars hasn’t beaten Northern Iowa during his career.

He’ll certainly use it as motivation, though, when the teams meet at 5 p.m. Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.

“You always look back at the teams you could never beat, and for me, that’s Northern Iowa,” the 6-foot-6 senior said. “I’m going to be locked in. I’m going to try to get (teammates) locked in.”

Aaron White is  Iowa’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points a game. (David Scrivner / Press-Citizen photo)

Aaron White is Iowa’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points a game. (David Scrivner / Press-Citizen photo)

Players Ejim’s height and taller have averaged 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds this season against the 3-4 Panthers.

Meanwhile, Ejim has averaged 17.0 points and 8.0 rebounds after missing the first two games while recovering from a hyper extended knee.

He is coming off last Monday’s 14-point, 10-rebound performance against Auburn.

“In the last couple years, they’ve beaten us every time,” Ejim said. “That’s something we want to change.”

— Randy Peterson

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Richard Carter offers a simple explanation for his success.

“It’s a lot of pick and rolls,” the Drake guard explained. “That’s how I get a lot of my points.

“(Coaches) allowed me to have a lot of freedom this year, to make plays for my teammates and myself.”

Carter, a 5-foot-11 senior from Detroit, has made himself the Bulldogs’ top scorer, averaging 20.6 points per game. He averaged 9.2 points last season.

“You’ve got to be aggressive to get to the free throw line,” Carter said. “That’s our mindset.”

Bulldogs coach Ray Giacoletti wants that aggressiveness to result in at least 10 free throws a half.

Carter attempted a team-high 43 foul shots in the first six games, making 37.

He’s also benefitted from the emergence of point guard Gary Ricks Jr., who 27 assists and just six turnovers.

“I think we knew we had something pretty unique from the start,” Giacoletti said of Carter. “Gary, to me, is kind of the bigger surprise of this young season.

“Those two really play well off each other.”

— Andrew Logue

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It’s fitting that the 1,000th point of Aaron White’s Iowa career came at the free-throw line.

The junior forward made two free throws with a second remaining in Tuesday’s 98-93 victory over Notre Dame to become the 41st player in Hawkeye history to reach a grand. Getting to the free-throw line is one of White’s strengths.

“Very cool,” White said of reaching the milestone. “Nine games into my junior year, it’s a blessing.”

He shot 258 free throws last season, 69 more than anyone on the team. He’s shooting 85.4 percent from the line this season. Iowa’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points a game also gets his share of dunks. He had four against the Irish. Three of them came in transition, where White is extremely dangerous because of his ability to run the floor and turn defense to offense in the blink of an eye.

White continues to work on his mid-range game. The defense he played on Jerian Grant, Notre Dame’s top scorer, shows how his game has evolved.

— Rick Brown

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CHIP RANK — Northern Iowa

A lack of recognition doesn’t seem to bother Chip Rank.

The senior forward is among the lesser known members of Northern Iowa’s basketball team, often overshadowed by Deon Mitchell or Seth Tuttle.

Then, you look at a stat sheet and notice Rank is averaging 11.7 points while playing 26.3 minutes a game.

“I’m a small four-man,” the 6-foot-6 native of Cedarburg, Wis., said. “So I’ve got to kind of outwork the opponent.”

Rank is comfortable maneuvering in the paint, or setting up for a jumper. He leads the Panthers with 16 3-point baskets made. Matt Bohannon is second with a dozen.

“Me and Bo have been in the gym all summer,” Rank said. “We’re prepared to shoot a lot of threes out there.”

The panthers have not played in their home state since beating Coe College Nov. 11, making Wells Fargo Arena a welcomed sight.

“A lot of the guys are looking forward to playing in front of some familiar faces,” Rank said. “I think all of us are looking forward to a shorter bus ride.”

— Andrew Logue

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

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