By Matt Tait
The Kansas University men's basketball team opened Big 12 play in stunning fashion on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse, staging a furious rally in the final minutes to pick up a 97-89, overtime victory against Iowa State.
KU got a banked-in three-pointer from red-shirt freshman Ben McLemore with :01 showing on the clock and then rolled over the Cyclones in overtime in front of a rockin' home crowd.
McLemore ended regulation with a three-pointer — his fifth of the night to that point — and kicked off overtime in the same manner, adding another chapter to the book titled, "Why Ben McLemore Might Be The Nation's Best Player."
The KU freshman went for 33 points and hit all six of his three-point attempts, all seven free-throw attempts and 10 of 12 field goal tries.
The Jayhawks led most of the way in the first half but suffered a late collapse and saw a 40-32 lead shrink to a 42-38 advantage at the half when Iowa State's Chris Babb drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the Cyclones to the locker room with some momentum.
KU scored the first four points of the second half and again led by eight but ISU ripped off a 14-1 run to take control of the game. The Cyclones led the rest of the way from there and picked up some clutch buckets late — many of them on the offensive glass — to sit on the brink of the upset, but McLemore's huge night and late-game heroics saved the Jayhawks, who improved to 13-1 overall and 1-0 in Big 12 play.
Here's a quick look back at some of the action.
The game turned when: Iowa State answered KU's quick spurt to start the second half with a 14-1 run that gave the Cyclones their largest lead of the game and momentary control that lasted until the final seconds.
Offensive highlight: Uhhhhh, let's see. ... Maybe Ben McLemore's banked-in three-pointer with one second left to tie it? That, clearly, was a huge offensive play — one that developed in a very similar fashion to the Mario Chalmers miracle against Memphis — but perhaps McLemore's biggest bucket to that point came with 6:49 to play, when he hit a three-pointer and was fouled. Travis Releford reversed the ball on the perimeter, Elijah Johnson whipped a swing pass to McLemore in front of the KU bench and, with his feet hovering above the out-of-bounds line, McLemore drained the triple.
Defensive highlight: There was not just one play that stood out, rather a series of defensive boards and grind-it-out possessions that kept KU close while the Jayhawks endured a second-half field goal drought of more than eight minutes. The dry spell finally came to an end at the 9:19 mark when Jeff Withey denied a pass out high, picked up a steal and tossed an assist to Travis Releford for a breakaway dunk that pulled KU to within one (54-53).
Key stat: Three-point shooting. The Cyclones were by far the more aggressive team from behind the three-point arc (ISU was 14-of-38 for the night), but the Jayhawks used the long-range shot to their advantage, as well, hitting 8 of 19 from downtown to survive the serious test.
Up next: The Jayhawks will hit the road for their first Big 12 Conference game of the season away from Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, when they head to Lubbock, Texas, for a 3 p.m. tipoff against Texas Tech.
KU runs out the clock. McLemore saves KU with a banked in three at the end of regulation.
Lots of missed free throws late by KU.
Ejim with the three. ISU with with only one timeout left.
Hoiberg calls timeout.