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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Keegan

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.

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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

KU-ISU

— 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.

Comments

Chris1955 1 year, 1 month 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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Jay Waxse 1 year, 1 month 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

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 1 month 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!!!!!

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Kevin Huffman 1 year, 1 month 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.

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Scut Farkus 1 year, 1 month ago

This was an unbelievable night for EJ and the best thing that could happen to the team at this point in the season. Now Self needs to get in BMacs grill. I've never seen a player with his talent be so apathetic about being aggressive. I'm sure NBA scouts are going to be a little reluctant to take a chance on a guy who doesn't want the ball in his hands when the game is close.

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Jason Keller 1 year, 1 month 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.

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JayhawkRock78 1 year, 1 month 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.

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ferdthemooncat 1 year, 1 month 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.

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FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 1 month 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.

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Jeffrey Nelson 1 year, 1 month ago

Tom's editorials seriously make my head hurt.

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clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 1 month 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

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JuanValdez 1 year, 1 month 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.

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mojayhawk 1 year, 1 month 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.

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nostradavid 1 year, 1 month 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

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HawksWin 1 year, 1 month 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!!!

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MinnesotaJay 1 year, 1 month ago

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

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actorman 1 year, 1 month ago

BTW, I love the reference to Lazarus.

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actorman 1 year, 1 month 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.

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HawksWin 1 year, 1 month 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 - http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/8990165/big-12-review-last-minute-kansas-iowa-state-game-coordinator-officials-says

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!

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Joel Thomas 1 year, 1 month 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.

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