Forty minutes doesn’t seem to be enough to contain a Kansas/Iowa State matchup. For the second time this year, Kansas and Iowa State went to overtime. On January 9, Kansas won behind a big night from Ben McLemore. On Monday night, it took a resurgent game from Elijah Johnson to carry the Jayhawks to a 108-96 win in overtime in Ames, Iowa.
After struggling earlier in the year and into the conference season, many – myself included – questioned if Johnson had lost his confidence or if he was right to be the point guard. Tonight he pushed those questions aside as he scored 8 points in the last 32 seconds of regulation, including the game-tying free throws with five seconds left, then scored 12 points in overtime.
If you’re counting, that’s 20 points in the last 5:32 of the game. He finished with a career-high 39.
Two of those came on a dunk just before overtime ran out that he admitted he should have dribbled out. He apologized to Iowa State after the game but still caught his share of boos.
The win was Bill Self’s 500th of his career but he started it off by getting a technical foul within the first two minutes. He told ESPN reporter Holly Rowe it was intentional to get his team’s attention to let them know he was ready to fight. It also seemed to quiet down a Hilton Coliseum crowd poised to explode.
They had plenty to cheer for. Iowa State rained down three-point shots all night, hitting 17 by the end of the game, including six from Tyrus McGee. A three-pointer by Korie Lucius with 5:24 left in regulation to push the score to 79-72. Kansas answered by scoring after two stops on the Cyclones to get back to within three. McGee hit another three, though, and extended the lead back to six points. Kansas tried to chip away, but with 47 seconds left, Georges Niang hit a three to make it 87-82. Then Travis Releford missed a three-pointer.
But with 32 seconds left in regulation, Johnson took over. He hit two three-pointers and, after Iowa State’s Lucious missed one of two free throws late (after ISU had hit 22 in a row), Kansas had the ball with 23 seconds left down only two points. Johnson took the ball inside the lane and missed, but there was contact, and as he and Niang were on the ground, the officials called a foul on Iowa State. He hit both free throws to tie it and ISU missed the last shot.
In overtime, Kansas scored on their first four possessions to get out to a 100-92 lead. After two consecutive turnovers, though, ISU was at the line with a chance to make it a one possession game again. But Will Clyburn missed one of two and Johnson hit another three with 54 seconds left in overtime and didn’t score again.
Johnson’s final line: 39 points on 13-22 shooting from the field, 6-10 from three-point range (including all four he shot in the last 5:32), and 7-7 from the line.
And he added seven assists and five rebounds. Releford had 19 and hit 5 of 9 three-pointers. Jeff Withey and Kevin Young both scored 13. Withey was a matchup problem inside for Iowa State (though they used his size against him for their own matchup advantage when they had the ball).
Ben McLemore was disappointing though. ESPN showed statistics pointing out a stark difference in his performance on the road versus at home during conference play. On Monday, he was passive, sitting on the wings waiting for a pass, but never got going. He airballed the only three that went into the books, but hit three free throws after being fouled on another attempt. He didn’t score until there were two minutes left in the first half. That will have to change.
During stretches, Bill Self had four guards out on the court, matching up with the smaller, quicker Iowa State lineup. He also had Johnson and Naadir Tharpe on the floor at the same time for much of the night. At the start of the game, though, even with Johnson at the point, the game had a different tempo. Johnson pushed the ball up and drove with confidence. He led fast breaks off rebounds, but there was a little bit of a secondary break as well. It got things moving and Johnson thrived, scoring nine points in the first half. He (along with Withey and Kevin Young) ran into foul trouble in the second half, and for a time, the lineup was Tharpe, McLemore, Releford, Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor. Withey and Young eventually fouled out, though Kansas caught a break, as Young collected a foul that should have been called on Withey late in the second half.
The win pushes Kansas to a 24-4 record overall and 12-3 record in the conference. They’re tied with Kansas State record-wise in the conference standings, but hold the tiebreaker based on their two wins over KSU this year. They’ll face West Virginia on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. CST in Lawrence.