Kansas Jayhawks coach Bill Self has 500 wins because Elijah Johnson ”blacked out.”
That’s the only way Johnson could describe one of the great performances by a Kansas player under Self.
Johnson scored a career-high 39 points – including 8 in the last 29 seconds of regulation and 12 in overtime – and No. 6 Kansas rallied to beat Iowa State 108-96 for Self’s milestone victory.
Travis Releford added 19 points for the Jayhawks (24-4, 12-3 Big 12), who snapped Iowa State’s 22-game home lucky run and kept pace with No. 13 Kansas State on top of the Big 12.
It’s hard to remember a rather more clutch 5 1/2 minutes of basketball by anybody on any team this season.
Johnson hit two 3s and made 2 free throws with 4.9 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 90-all. He and Releford buried 3s to put Kansas ahead 100-92 with 2:03 left, and Johnson drilled a 30-footer with 54 seconds left that let down a sellout crowd.
Johnson said that a personal conversation with Self on the bench put him in a zone that doomed the Cyclones.
”It was a locker room type of conversation. It just had happened to happened in a game. I feel a bit like that kind of set some fire through my body,” Johnson said. ”My teammates saw me responding.” NFL betting lines
Korie Lucious scored 23 points and Tyrus McGee had 22 for the Cyclones (19-9, 9-6), who dropped their 3rd overtime game in Big 12 play – and their 2nd straight at the hands of the Jayhawks.
For all the talk concerning Self’s search for win No. 500, this game seemed destined to hinge upon whether Cyclones, one of the nation’s best offenses, could score enough on the stingy Jayhawks, the state’s leader in field goal percentage defense entering play.
As it seemed, both teams had little difficulty making shots till overtime.
That is when the Iowa State Cyclones lost their touch.
Freshman Georges Niang beat the shot clock with a 3, Iowa State’s 17th of the game, to give the Cyclones an 87-82 lead with 44.5 seconds left. But Johnson answered, and the Jayhawks went 6 of 7 from the field in overtime while Cyclones went 1 of 9.
For Cyclones, this loss was painfully similar to the one in Lawrence on January 9.
Ben McLemore banked in a late 3 to force overtime of a game the Cyclones had controlled throughout. The Jayhawks prevailed, and though the Cyclones bounced back, they actually did not forget their lost night in Lawrence.
But with March just around the corner, Iowa State and the rest of the league is chasing the Jayhawks – again.
Though Jayhawks and K-State are tied for first, the Jayhawks hold the tiebreaker because they beat the rival Wildcats twice. Kansas’ remaining regular season schedule; Texas Tech and West Virginia at home, struggling Baylor on the road, doesn’t appear to be all that daunting as the Jayhawks go for no less than a share of its 9th straight Big 12 title.