Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Kansas needs three to tie, dribbles to the corner, hands it off and hits the shot to go to overtime.
That’s how it shaped up on Wednesday night as Kansas found themselves on their heels through most of the second half against Iowa State after blowing a 48-40 lead. The Cyclones went on a 14-1 run while Kansas went more than eight minutes without a field goal. Once they broke the drought, they kept it close, but couldn’t shake ISU and trailed most of the night.
That is, until Ben McLemore hit a bank shot with 1.3 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 79. The play was reminiscent of the shot hit by Mario Chalmers against Memphis in 2008 to send the NCAA Tournament into overtime before Kansas’s eventual victory. The stakes weren’t as high, though this was the first game of Big 12 Conference play for Kansas, but the reaction was plenty explosive inside Allen Fieldhouse. McLemore opened overtime with another three point basket to add to his game-high 33 points.
For all the sloppiness, Kansas rattled off 11 straight points in overtime and held Iowa State scoreless until two minutes and fifty seconds into the extra period and pulled off the 97-89 win.
Iowa State gave Kansas a challenge and should have won this game. Coach Fred Hoiberg should have fouled when Kansas got the ball on their last possession of regulation. Iowa State out-hustled Kansas, getting many long rebounds and tip-ins when they weren’t hitting three-pointers (they made 14 all night). Kansas shot the ball in bad situations or missed badly. Jeff Withey wasn’t a force inside, as matchups dragged him out towards the perimeter. Elijah Johnson turned the ball over six times, including a bad travel as Kansas led 48-40 and he seemed surprised by a defender in his way.
With 1:04 left in the first half, Kansas was up 42-33, but let Iowa State get to the line then shot too soon in their last possession and gave ISU a chance to hit a three at the end of the half which pulled the score to within four.
It took a superb effort from McLemore to keep Kansas in the game. His 33 points were impressive, but moreso was the way he scored. He hit jumpers, three-pointers, free throws, lay-ins, and he had a near-perfect night. He was 10-12 from the floor (one of those being a layup he should have had), and hit all six of his three-point shots and all seven free throws. He scored 13 points in the last eight minutes, including a rare four-point play when Kansas trailed 63-57.
Iowa State had six players score in double figures, led by Melvin Ejim‘s 19. Ejim wasn’t afraid of Jeff Withey and made his share of shots over the defensive standout. Kansas’s starting lineup all scored in double figures and Naadir Tharpe had eight off the bench. Travis Releford scored 12, but none in the first half. Withey scored 16 but shot only 3-7 from the free throw line, including the front end of a 1-and-1 when Kansas trailed by three with 9:38 left in the second half. Just 64 seconds later, Releford missed a free throw that would have finished a traditional three-point play and tied the score. Both misses could have made this a much different game.
Kevin Young continued his solid play, getting his second straight double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Johnson had 10 assists. Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor got in the game, but barely played outside of the first half.
Kansas shot 50% from the floor as a team (though it didn’t seem like it) but really did their damage from the free throw line, making 27 of 38 while ISU hit 15 of 20. Kansas is shooting much better from the line this year when compared to most seasons, a good sign for the future.
Speaking of which, Kansas next faces Texas Tech on Saturday in Lubbock. Tip time is 3:00 p.m. CST.