Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Opinion: Elijah Johnson responds to ‘man-up’ talk

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson extends to defend against a three from Iowa State guard Korie Lucious during the first half on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson extends to defend against a three from Iowa State guard Korie Lucious during the first half on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after win over ISU

Kansas coach Bill Self talks after his team's 108-96 overtime victory over Iowa State on Feb. 25, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford

Kansas guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford talk after the Jayhawks' 108-96 overtime victory over Iowa State on Feb. 25, 2013.

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Box score


— Elijah Johnson awakened with an achy stomach and knee. All those around him knew what to do with the verbal sympathy cards that might have brightened his spirits. Bill Cowgill, the Kansas University basketball team’s athletic trainer, burned them with his tongue at the start of the day. Bill Self, the school’s 10th-year coach, took the baton from Cowgill moments into Monday night’s game against Iowa State inside Hilton Coliseum and let Johnson have it again.

You think maybe Cowgill and Self know their personnel?

Johnson, the guy who couldn’t shoot straight or dribble great for so much of the season, responded to the “man-up” speeches by delivering a more clutch performance than any Kansas player since ... good question. A long, long time.

Johnson scored 20 of his career-high 39 points in the final 5:29, rallying Kansas to a 108-96 overtime victory against an Iowa State squad of marksmen who made 17 three-pointers, 29 free throws and just eight two-point field goals.

Johnson alone outscored Iowa State 8-3 in the final 29 seconds of regulation and 12-6 in the overtime period, although he apologized afterward for the final two points, a dunk when the classy call was dribbling out the clock.

His parents gave him the biblical name Elijah. Lazarus would have fit him well, too, given that his game came all the way back from the dead and then some Monday. Johnson was quick to share the credit with more than just teammates.

Athletic trainers in all sports are valued greatly by athletes because they know all the tricks to get them healthy enough to play when aches and pains are begging them to rest. Athletes don’t like resting. They like competing. They tend to develop a deep trust for trainers, so much so that a trainer, to do the best job he can for the team, needs to show some tough love at times. Monday morning was one such time for Cowgill, according to Johnson and Self.

“I’ve been with Bill Cowgill a whole lot, and he’s been treating me, getting me right and making me feel better, giving me confidence and letting me know that, ‘You had an injury. You don’t have one now,’ and making me do things I’m not comfortable doing, trying to get me to step out of my comfort zone,” Johnson said. “And he’s been doing it ever since I had my (offseason) surgery. And I think right now it’s paying off because most people care to you and baby you through it, and right now he’s just telling me, ‘Man up. You don’t have too many games left.’ I’ve been with him every day.”

Self likened an athlete’s body to a race car, saying, “You just get off a little bit, and it can throw the whole engine off or how it runs. This morning his knee was bothering him, and he’s had some stomach issues. Finally, Cowgill got into him, ‘I don’t want to hear that crap. You’re not hurt. You’re not hurt. Quit making excuses. You’re not hurt.’ And I think was probably good for him to hear that.”

Johnson agreed.

“It takes a little push to go a long ways sometimes,” Johnson said. “I feel that little push taking me real far right now.”

Self pushed him early in the game during a break in the action by lighting him up in a manner that usually takes place behind closed doors. Looking back on the moment after the game, Johnson said the coach did it on purpose and pushed just the right buttons.

KU’s comeback not only put the Jayhawks in good position to win a ninth consecutive Big 12 title, it ended Iowa State’s homecourt winning streak at 22 games, and it showed Kansas is capable of winning games played at any pace.

What Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg is doing with his team isn’t a great deal different from what Big 12 football coaches have been doing for years to the delight of audiences across the Great Plains.

Hoiberg floods the basketball court with long-range shooters, who have quick triggers and no conscience. He makes the opposing defense cover so much more territory, and it makes for such an entertaining brand of basketball to watch.

Hoiberg’s Cyclones have inverted the game of basketball, turned into an outside-in Fan Fest. When the Cyclones play at home, they feed on their boisterous fans, led by an especially vibrant student section. The fans feed on the excitement of watching the long arc of shots raining in from every angle, every man.

It’s such a stark, welcome contrast to the way so many games are played in this season of historically low scores.

Cyclones sixth man Tyrus McGee, one of those undersized shooting guards off the bench who loves to let it fly anywhere, anytime, lit up Kansas for 22 points and made six of 10 three-pointers. On most nights, he would have been the game’s MVP. On this night, he finished a distant second to Johnson, who made six of 10 three-pointers, 13 of 22 field goals and seven of seven free throws and did some of his most meaningful work by scoring eight points in less time than it takes a shot clock to expire.


Joel Thomas 7 years, 3 months ago

McGee and the Cyclones seemingly good not miss. Good fortune, pay back, or karma, for poor earlier calls, framed EJ's night. Better than McLemore's dunk.

HawksWin 7 years, 2 months ago

I cannot believe this! Why not review each and every call!!!! Didn't Fran or Burger say the refs had called 7 or 8 fouls on ISU vs. KU's 15 during the 2H? The refs were horrible - this and other games. Big12 or NCAA need to do something about the refs.

Big 12 to review calls in Kansas' win -

Welcome back Elijah! We've been waiting for you. Now lead your team to the FF and go get that NC that you missed last year! Great game! RCJH!

John Randall 7 years, 2 months ago

This was as tough a game to officiate as I have watched. Admittedly, they didn't handle it very well, but I'm not sure any crew would have done much better.

NJHAWK 7 years, 2 months ago

Bring back Bobby Knight. For the last few games, it seems as though Fran is taking credit away from Kansas players and making anti-Kansas comments. His rant about no call was uncalled for. Earlier in the game, there were several calls which went against Kansas.

Jayhawkhuey 7 years, 2 months ago

Yep, noticed the bias, too... But it's nothing new that commentators root for the underdog. We are just VERY rarely the underdog! Goes with the territory. Speaking for myself, I like it that way!

clevelandjayhawker 7 years, 2 months ago

Goal tending/basket interferance (isu players seem to pick the ball off the rim or tip it back in while still on the rim), Withey's "charge" third foul, the foul on Rel after the travel and about 8 other calls/no-calls is what makes me upset.

Jarod Kilgore 7 years, 2 months ago

They do review each and every call. From every game. I'm not sure why this warranted its own page on ESPN, but every call is reviewed, and this one will be as well. No changes are going to be made to the outcome of the game, in case that's what you were afraid of.

Kevin Huffman 7 years, 2 months ago

Most that I'm hearing in retrospect now AREN'T as up in arms about the charge / blocking foul no-call as the foul called on Niang for holding Elijah that sent him to the line. I can see some reason in being upset about that after JUST having let that other play go.

actorman 7 years, 2 months ago

Hey, a columnist can change his mind, can't he?

Seriously, none of us saw this game coming, and if anyone said they did they're lying.

klineisanazi 7 years, 2 months ago

Oh I am sure he can take it or he wouldn't be in the business. If you weren't questioning EJ before tonight you are lying or you are nuts. EJ and Tharpe have put up some of the worst numbers in the history of KU basketball as PGs and that is a fact. I admire the heck out of EJ for having the guts to keep on playing and come through with a record night like he did last night. But the fact is he has been awful for most of the conference schedule. I really hope he has turned the corner. He doesn't need to score 39 every time out (unless McLemore continues to disappear) but KU needs some production out of him to make a run in March.

SaltLakeHawk 7 years, 2 months ago

Bill Self recently said something along the lines of "I think he'll have a good remainder of the season, and you should think so too."

Bill Self saw it. He watched as Elijah tied the last few knots in his shoelaces, then he warned us. The shoes are on.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 2 months ago

Maybe not this game, but there were at least some that knew that we are and were best off with EJ as our leader. Fortunately, Coach Self is one of those that aren't quite as smart as Keegan.

actorman 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm glad that EJ apologized for that last dunk, as that was very unlike him. I thought it was a pretty classless move, so it was good that he realized that.

On the other hand, I can certainly understand why he would have had the urge to do that, given the game he had just had and all that he's been through.

bad_dog 7 years, 2 months ago

Spot. On.

Check out the last of Nick Krug's game photos. Elijah looks contrite and this is very much out of character for him-at least since his freshman year...

Dirk Medema 7 years, 2 months ago

I wouldn't say classless, but definitely not the best choice, and regardless it was very classy of him to apolgize. A lot more than you can say for irrational fans.

actorman 7 years, 2 months ago

BTW, I love the reference to Lazarus.

MinnesotaJay 7 years, 2 months ago

If we have Elijah back, we're a whole new team! Awesome game!

HawksWin 7 years, 2 months ago

Great article on EJ! When a young athlete gets injured, like EJ & his knee, he has to overcome 1) physical healing, and 2) brain healing. The latter lingers on even after the injury heals, and becomes a mind game. Between his ears, a voice whispers telling him his good knee is gone and his game won't be the same. Doubt & fear set in eating away his confidence. That's been EJ's games thus far. Unlike other players, EJ's disposition is gentler which got me to think it'd take one pissed off moment or sheer desire that comes from the heart (not brain) to win thereby overcoming his mind game & reclaiming his old self - and that had to be soon. Instead he needed a good hard kick in the rear - and get him ticked off (he had a heated exchange with Self). We now have the old Elijah back!!! Thank goodness! It is about time EJ!!!

nostradavid 7 years, 2 months ago

I have faith in Elijah the Thunderer! Awesome game tonight.

and I think I like it !

and I think I like it ! by nostradavid

mojayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

Enough with the 'no call' in the last 5 seconds. There was an equally bad 'charge call' that went against us on the opposite side of the bucket where replay showed Niang was clearly not set. He had only one foot on the floor. Also, lots of blow by ticky tack fouls against us. Time to stop whining about one call.

klineisanazi 7 years, 2 months ago

I agree it was overblown. I will say KU might just have found a new rival in the league. Iowa State will continue to be good and the games will be tough. And unlike KSU, ISU can bring it to AFH . Until KSU is a threat to at least split the series, they are not going to win the conference or be KU's rival. They gotta get over peeing down their legs everytime they take the court against KU.

Chris1955 7 years, 2 months ago

No, KSU doesn't have to stop urinating down their leg.everytime they take the court against KU. I rather like the thought of them having that kind of fear reaction.

Kye Clark 7 years, 2 months ago

It's getting a lot of attention primarily because of the reaction to Marcus Smart's back flip. When so many on here were calling that move classless, and Travis Releford was saying "if we win we won't be doing any back flips. We'll just walk off the court in style". Also, EJ himself felt the need to apologize immediately afterwards, so there is something to it. Surely you must understand, even if you don't agree.

Personally, I didn't have a problem with either the back flip or the dunk. But I can recognize where it's coming from.

JayHawkFanToo 7 years, 2 months ago

I beg to differ, these are two completely different situations.

The Smart flip WAS NOT a basketball play and happened AFTER the game was over and clearly done with premeditation and with the purpose of rubbing it in. The EJ dunk WAS a basketball play and happened in the heat of the moment while the game was still on. You must have missed the part where an ISU player tried to score AFTER the dunk.

Should EJ have dribbled the ball out and not score? Probably. On a day when he is breaking his slump, is in the zone and having the best game of his career, I give him a pass.

Kye Clark 7 years, 2 months ago

Doesn't matter. The game was over, regardless of what EJ did there.

I assume you know the backflip was "clearly done with premeditation" due to your close personal relationship with Marcus Smart and conversations where he expressed a definite intent to rub it in.

They are not completely different. Somewhat different, but with some similarities. Anyone who doesn't think so is only looking at this with KU bias.

And no I didn't miss the fact that it happened during the game and ISU tried to score after the dunk, but thanks for checking. Condescension is always laughed at here :)

jayhawkinATL 7 years, 2 months ago

Some pin heads just don't get it. You can have a classless moment WITHOUT being a classless person!!!

JuanValdez 7 years, 2 months ago

Maybe, and just maybe, Self lately has allowed Johnson to play the 2 while letting Tharpe play the point.

And maybe, just maybe, what you see is the kid reacting positively to playing his more natural position.

I understand it creates a problem to have Johnson and Tharpe in at the same time because it makes it difficult to play both Releford and Maclemore, but that small line up was primarily responsible for scoring 90 pts in regulation last night. That is a long ways from the 60 some we have been averaging with Johnson at the point.

John White 7 years, 2 months ago

I completely agree that a large cause of EJ going off was likely not having to play the 1. However, the problem comes because you probably can't play a small lineup like that against most teams. ISU is has a small, non-traditional, lineup. Playing small against them is the best way to match up. I don't know if it works against most teams.

So then the problem becomes figuring out who to sit. If EJ can't play the 1, you can only pick two of EJ, Rele, and BMac. Tough pick.

Kevin Huffman 7 years, 2 months ago

Ummmm, most of the late game charge came w/ Tharpe NOT IN the game. Elijah WAS playing point. Tharpe didn't get back in until Young fouled out!!!

clevelandjayhawker 7 years, 2 months ago

What a game EJ!

And way to go KY, the first 5 mins of the tcu and iowa st games he has had what 16 points and like 10 boards? I love when we start a game off fast, love the energy he bings into a game.

I must admit I do feel bad, seeing the coaches son crying made me happy at the moment, that was classless. I was not a big fan of the dunk at the end, because we are KU "we are suppose to win" and shouldnt show emotion like we had a doubt. But I cant judge anyone, I too got caught up emotionally in the flow of the game.

great game, Roch Chalk

Jeffrey Nelson 7 years, 2 months ago

Tom's editorials seriously make my head hurt.

bad_dog 7 years, 2 months ago

One can only speculate what could be done to avoid future recurrences...

nuleafjhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

I think you're Knee Deep in the Hoopla.

FearlessJayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

I just hope that Elijah is not a one game wonder. We are going to have to have more performances like this by Elijah, Ben, Jeff or someone else if we hope to cut down the nets in March and April.

Bill Pitcher 7 years, 2 months ago

As well as McGee played on the offensive end, he was "guarding" EJ at the 6:00 mark in regulation until he flamed out so bad they put Babb on him. EJ just torched McGee.

Marcia Parsons 7 years, 2 months ago

Which answers my question about why McGee plays limited minutes when he's such a great shooter.

JayhawkRock78 7 years, 2 months ago

EJ, I got down on you after one of our losses. I was very happy for you last night. What a performance during an extremely important game for our big 12 title hopes.

kellerman411 7 years, 2 months ago

Elijah Johnson was fat and out of shape, following the surgery that is, which is understandable. That was the problem here. Yeah, playing off of the ball is helping but I think it is really more about his conditioning and new found confidence in his knees.

Last night, he looked leaner and more powerful than we have seen him since the Kentucky game. Elijah is back, he may not put up 39 every night but Elijah is back.

Kevin Huffman 7 years, 2 months ago

Now people are switching to BMc.

Ummmm, did anyone watch the game last night.....they were all over him like superglue even several feet out beyond the arc. They were NOT going to let him beat them like the last game.

Kye Clark 7 years, 2 months ago

Ummmm...if you're the projected #1 pick in the draft I don't think it's too much to expect a little more aggressiveness.

You know what you do when someone is guarding you that closely? You drive on them. You're either going to draw a foul or blow right by them.

It's also because he looked uninterested on the offensive end of our last close game, OSU.

This is from Jesse Newell on the KU ratings article:

"Is this the start of a disturbing trend? In KU's two biggest conference games, McLemore has been a no-show, as he scored seven points while attempting just six field goals in 38 minutes. He had four assists compared to just one turnover, but the Jayhawks need much more out of him if they hope to hit their ceiling in March."

It's not that fans are "switching" to BMac because they need someone to complain about. There is genuine cause for concern. Not panic. Not saying he's a bad player or anything like that, but it's raised some eyebrows.

Tony Bandle 7 years, 2 months ago

I called a ten point victory for Kansas yesterday afternoon....unfortunately, I was short by over thirty points of the final score!! :)

NBA..please, someone hire Fred.....ASAP!!!!!

Jay Waxse 7 years, 2 months ago

Hey Hawks, let's talk about this something. How much can we attribute Elijah's comfort and success on the floor as of late to him no longer bringing the ball up the court every time? It may seems minor but passing the rock off to Naadir then being free to move off the ball and get open makes our boy EJ 100% more effective. I think this is a brilliant move and I was scared HCBS was going to be too stubborn to allow Elijah to go back into the 2 guard spot.

Regardless, EJ is the man. Go KU

Chris1955 7 years, 2 months ago

If Bmac keeps continuing to no show on the road, EJ and Tharpe may end up playing the 1 & 2 slots.

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