Elijah Johnson takes over against Iowa State


Kansas head coach Bill Self gives a congratulatory pat to Elijah Johnson after the Jayhawks' 108-96 overtime win over Iowa State on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives a congratulatory pat to Elijah Johnson after the Jayhawks' 108-96 overtime win over Iowa State on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

1. Elijah Johnson: So who saw that coming?* Johnson, who had made 38 percent of his twos and 27 percent of his threes during Big 12 play, single-handedly won the game for KU late, scoring a career-high 39 points on 13-for-22 shooting with 6-for-10 shooting from three-point range. The senior had KU's final eight points in regulation — two tough threes then two high-pressure free throws with 4.9 seconds left to tie it — then scored seven of the first 10 in overtime. In the final minutes, Johnson was getting to the rim off the dribble whenever he wanted to. He also added seven assists to go with three turnovers in 37 minutes.

2. Travis Releford: On a night when Ben McLemore was nearly invisible, Releford halted numerous ISU momentum swings by aggressively taking and making outside shots. The senior made six of 12 field goals and five of nine three-pointers to finish with 19 points — his highest total in a Big 12 game this season. Releford added four rebounds, three assists and two steals to go with three turnovers in 42 minutes.

3. Kevin Young: Young has struggled with his shot most of the season, but when KU needed him Monday, he was able to come through with mid-range jumpers to keep the defense honest. Young notched 13 points on 6-or-8 shooting, which included 4-for-6 shooting on two-point jumpshots. Young also had nine rebounds, an assist and turnover in 23 minutes before fouling out.

4. Jeff Withey: The good news for KU? No one on ISU could guard Withey. The bad news? Withey could guard no one on ISU. The 7-foot center was once again exposed by a team that forced him to play defense on the perimeter, as freshman Georges Niang (seven assists, no turnovers) was the focal point for the Cyclones' offense while going against KU's big man. Withey still had a stretch where he took over offensively, finishing with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting with 10 rebounds to go with two assists and four turnovers. KU already should start praying to the basketball gods that its round of 32 opponent is a team with a traditional 5-man.

5. Perry Ellis: One of his best games in Big 12 play, if not his best. The freshman provided scoring for KU when it was battling foul trouble, as he made two of five field goals and four of four free throws for eight points. Ellis also had six rebounds and no turnovers in his 15 minutes.

6. Naadir Tharpe: Hit a couple big threes, which isn't insignificant considering he was shooting 19 percent from three in his previous Big 12 games. Tharpe had nine points on 3-for-7 shooting, which included 2-for-5 accuracy from long range. He also had four assists to go with three turnovers in 26 minutes.

7. Ben McLemore: 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.

8. Jamari Traylor: Had a rebound, block, steal and missed field goal in eight minutes. Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (224 points)
2. Ben McLemore (212 points)
3. Travis Releford (208 points)
4. Kevin Young (167 points)
5. Elijah Johnson (153 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (141 points)
7. Perry Ellis (120 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (95 points)
9. Andrew White III (43 points)
10. Rio Adams (28 points)
11. Justin Wesley (17 points)

Big 12 Standings
1. Jeff Withey (133 points)
2. Ben McLemore (123 points)
3. Travis Releford (122 points)
4. Kevin Young (108 points)
5. Naadir Tharpe (80 points)
6. Elijah Johnson (78 points)
7. Perry Ellis (68 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (54 points)
9. Andrew White III (20 points)
10. Rio Adams (13 points)
11. Justin Wesley (10 points)

* — Actually my best friend Mike saw it coming. Here's his text to me earlier Monday: "I have a feeling tonight is going to be EJ's night ... I feel like he is going to bust out of it today ... you know me and my psychic random thoughts." I'll let him make the bets next time we're in Vegas.


hawk_of_ages 7 years, 8 months ago

I don't know if I'd call Ben's recent struggles "disturbing." He's just hit the usual freshman wall, compounded by the fact that defenses are keying on him more intensely than most freshmen have to endure. Thankfully we've seen Travis, EJ, and Naadir at various times pick up the slack as his production has sagged, and now defenses won't be able to sleep on any of our perimeter players.

nuleafjhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

hawk_of_ages - this is nothing against you, but I have to agree with the whole "disturbing" thing. Jesse is absolutely correct, BMAC has all but disappeared in a few games this year. Usually games that are pressure packed, "must win" kind of games. True that he's a freshman, albeit a 20 year old freshman who has been on the team 2 years now. With his talent and ability he should be taking these kinds of games over.

John White 7 years, 8 months ago

I completely agree. He is not your average freshman, in age or in talent. He is a potential #1 overall pick after this season. Nobody with that much ability should be completely disappearing in the most important games.

Robert Brock 7 years, 8 months ago

Ben just does not look comfortable handling the ball and at this point he is more of a spot up jump shooter hanging around the perimeter. Looking at the ISU and OSU games this past week, he seemed to not want any part down the stretch and was usually passing the ball as soon as soon as he touched it. We've seen him dominate big games this year against Ohio State and KSU, and we know what he's capable of. I am eager to see how he performs at Baylor in the final Big 12 game - they are going to be fired up in Waco.

hawk_of_ages 7 years, 8 months ago

I mean, it's fine if you want to be "disturbed" by it, but I've never seen a freshman who didn't go through it. Look back to Paul Pierce as a freshman, for instance, and you'll see at least five games late in the conference season when he scored in single digits.

Brad Avery 7 years, 8 months ago

Let us not worry about it. Other guys have stepped up and taken over the scoring load. BMac will get it together, just in time for the Big Dance.

Geezer 7 years, 8 months ago

Babb is a heckuva defender, don't forget that part.

Phoggie_Thinking 7 years, 8 months ago

With a minute to go I switch Babb onto Elijah if I were Hoiberg, but then again it happened pretty fast.

Ashwin Rao 7 years, 8 months ago

At least he is selective with his shots, and does not force the issue. I am OK with that.

Phoggie_Thinking 7 years, 8 months ago

I had to check here to find out who the player of the game was. Hey Jesse, pretty easy call on tonight's game.

Casey Gee 7 years, 8 months ago

I don't think I'm going to call this a disturbing trend by Mclemore. I am going to call it a slump. In the first game against ISU, which was also a huge game, Mclemore hit 33 points. He also showed up for 22 points at Ohio St. He clearly has the ability to have big performance during the biggest game. I think defenses have been scouting him more thoroughly lately, and let's not forget that he is a freshman. I still believe he will find a way to impact games late in this season, just having a rough time of it now.

dylans 7 years, 8 months ago

Not to mention his 30 points against KSU to start the current win streak.

John White 7 years, 8 months ago

There's a pattern there. The two games mentioned were both at home. He seems to have some issues when he is away from home. Has there been a road game this year where McLemore was a factor? Sadly, the tournament is played entirely away from home, so he needs to figure out how to play as well as he can outside of the comfort of Allen Fieldhouse, and he has about two weeks to do it.

hawk_of_ages 7 years, 8 months ago

Has there been a road game this year where McLemore was a factor? I believe Ohio State was mentioned above. In fact, Ben has scored in double figures in most games this year, including road games.

John White 7 years, 8 months ago

I was actually at that game so it was a bit harder to see who was doing what (nosebleed seats). I just looked up the recap and box score and I will definitely give you that game. The others though, in conference play, not so much. Did you see the stat differential they showed during the game yesterday for McLemore in the Big 12 at home vs on the road. It was night and day. Scoring double digits doesn't necessarily mean he played well.

A tentative McLemore can score double digits. A confident and aggressive McLemore can dominate the game. To have a chance at a deep tournament run, KU needs the confident and aggressive McLemore that dominates games, even if they are away from home. Hopefully he gets back to the form he was at early in the season in Columbus.

hawk_of_ages 7 years, 8 months ago

I hope he gets back on track too, but I think we've proven we have the horses to win big games even when Ben isn't dominant.

John White 7 years, 8 months ago

Not to take anything away from last night's win by any means, but Joe Lunardi is currently projecting ISU as a 10 seed. They need Ben to make it past the round of 16.

hawk_of_ages 7 years, 8 months ago

Playing at Hilton is a lot different from playing on a neutral floor. In any case, Ben WAS dominant against this same Iowa State team at the Fieldhouse, and what was the result? A carbon copy of last night's game. So I just don't think we're that reliant on BMac, especially as Elijah and Naadir have been playing better.

JayHawkFanToo 7 years, 8 months ago

MSU 14 point (2nd)
Washington State 11 (3rd)
Oregon State 21 (1st)
Ohio State 22 (1st)
TTU 10 (4th)
Texas 16 (1st)
KSU 11 (2nd)
WVU 13 (3rd)

These are the first 8 games played away from AFH. Obviously expectations are high but your conclusion that he has issues away from home is clearly mistaken. He has had a couple of average games but for a (second year) freshman playing with 4 seniors (three of them 5th year), he is doing great.

nuleafjhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

I'll sound wishy-washy here, but BMAC is one of those players that make me be that way! On the one hand, he is talented beyond most reasonable expectations. On the other hand, he doesn't always utilize those talents.

It's been well publicized that Coach Self has ridden EJ like a Shetland pony to get the most out of him. Whatever he says to EJ, he should say to McLemore, because if this guy's potential is ever tapped he could be really special.

My opinion is, if BMAC has a wide open shot from just about anywhere on the court, chances are he will hit it. He is that good of a shot. The problem is, he does NOT shoot well when guarded and he almost never drives the ball to the hole. Why drive, you say? Well, an easy two points never hurts, BUT the other thing is, he is a crazy good free-throw shooter. What, about 90% ?. We're going to need that in the NCAA tournament.

I think McLemore is a very good college ball player. I know he is going to be picked very high in the NBA draft, but they will be drafting him on athleticism and potential, not because he is the best player in college basketball right now.

clevelandjayhawker 7 years, 8 months ago

Anyone on here going to admit they were calling for EJ to come off the bench after the oklahoma loss?

John White 7 years, 8 months ago

I will definitely admit I was doing that. However, my thought was more that he would be much better off playing the two with Tharpe at the point. For whatever reason, EJ just doesn't play nearly as well while handling the ball the whole game. In this game, where he went nuts, he was not playing the 1 most of the game. They went small and had four guards out there with Tharpe handling the ball.

I think that is the recipe for success, The problem, though, is who do you sit? McLemore? Releford? While EJ was outstanding in this game, I think not playing the point gave him the opportunity to play this way. I think there is still a dilemma. Hopefully, EJ can translate this game to playing from the point, but we still haven't seen it since he has been at KU. He is a very good 2 in my opinion, but has a large drop off when he plays the 1.

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 8 months ago

I agree with PhogTime on this one.

I wouldn't say that it's distubring just yet. He's not finding his shot because defenses are keying on him big time. Everyone has complete scouting reports on how to guard him now, and he and Self need to make the adjustments to get him open looks.

It sometimes looks like he's not fully comfortable being the guy who runs off screens and curls and dips and cuts trying to create that separation. That's something that he needs to get better at for sure. But in the mean time I haven't really seen us put the ball in his hands at the top of the key and try to get him open looks using ball screens.

Sure, no defender is going to go under on a ball screen when Mc has the ball, because they'd be giving up the three. But when they do go over he's shown the ability to step into a 17 footer or get into the lane for an even closer look.

HawkinPA 7 years, 8 months ago

Is it just me or was anyone else just as upset with Tharpe as I was on EVERY inbounds play? There were at least three or four times where he didn't get the ball inbounds. There was a travel call on one and I beleive two turnovers. Was it confusion on what play was called (I saw Self yelling after one about the playcall) or did Tharpe just not know who was moving to what spot? We are usually the best at coming out of a timeout or stoppage with an inbounds play but it was awful last night. Other than that, EJ was a MAN! I was one who kept telling people that we absolutely need him to make a deep run and that he would snap out of it.

justanotherfan 7 years, 8 months ago

EJ deserves all the credit in the world for what he did last night. He owned that second half and the OT. That's the kind of guard play that puts banners in the rafters.

Ben was completely passive during this game. He didn't really look for his shot. He wasn't looking to turn the corner and get into the lane. He was content to shoot jumpers or, if they weren't falling, pass the ball back out to the top. I appreciate the fact that he is a player that won't force shots, but he has to be aggressive and force offense, which is different than forcing shots. Sometimes the defense won't let you get the shots you want. If you take those shots anyway, you're forcing shots. Ben doesn't do that (to his credit). However, ISU made a point to run him off the three point line last night (to their credit). Rather than curling towards the paint, or getting some back cuts to free up his offense, Ben just stayed in the offense. As a result, ISU's gameplan to defend him worked very well for them. Ben needs to force offense. If they are taking away the three, he has to back cut or drive or curl to get into the lane and get his offense from there. He's way too talented to score only 7 points (on six shots) in a game that was played in the 100s.

Thank goodness EJ bailed him out with an amazing performance. I'm happy for EJ to get that off his back and hopefully be able to just go out and play ball the rest of the season.

KGphoto 7 years, 8 months ago

If everybody else had played poorly, I think he would've stepped up more. I don't think of it as him getting bailed out, I think of it as him being a team guy. He didn't force anything because he didn't need to, but he also didn't make many mistakes that hurt us.

ISU planned well to defend him, he deferred to his hot teammates.

Ryan Zimmerman 7 years, 8 months ago

and that picture above looks like EJ is spitting out gum or something into Self's hand

KGphoto 7 years, 8 months ago

LOL "disturbing". EJ's funk was disturbing. This is not.

So I'm thinking of the biggest games we've had this year. Remember, at the time, these were big games. Important games.

21 Mich St. - 14pts in the second game of his collegiate career.

Colorado - 24pts

@ #7Ohio St. - 22pts

Iowa St. - 33pts and the game tying shot.

@ #11 KSU - 11pts off 4-7 shooting

Oklahoma - 18pts

Okie St. - 23pts

Oklahoma - 15pts

10 KSU - 30 pts

@ #14 Okie St. - 7pts. One bad shooting night out of ten big games. Not to mention the fact that the surging Cowboys are thinking "Hey guys, this Mac kid touched us up for 23 last time, and he just slapped KSU with 30. How bout we stop him first?"

Iowa St. - 7 pts on a night The Prophet TOOK OVER. 4 assists and 1 turnover to go with 3-3 at the line, 3 rebounds and only 2 fouls in 38 minutes. Not great, but he wasn't exactly hurting us.

He's basically 5 of 7 for good games against the top 5 teams in the league this year, including 3 monster games. Mac's other two single digit games came against SE Misery St. and American. Possibly the two least important games of the year.

So no, I don't find any of this to be either disturbing or a budding trend. In fact I don't consider last nights game a bad game at all. EJ exploded! Relly, Young and Withey all had really good games. Perry Ellis had the game of his life. How much room is left? He took a back seat. Big deal.

Personally, he was the last thing on my mind. EJ was all I could watch!

KGphoto 7 years, 8 months ago

Sorry about the font. Was that the hash tag thing? I had listed the ranking for Mich St. and KSU as #21 and #10.

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 8 months ago

Underrated play of the night:

Naadir halfcourt bounce pass to Releford on the fast break between two defenders.

Another sick pass by Naa, but this time it led to points.

Robert Brock 7 years, 8 months ago

Good point. There are times when Tharpe provides some important help. He can stink the place up but turn around and make a key play at crunch time.

Bill Skeet 7 years, 8 months ago

Elijah's coming out is the best thing that could happen for Ben. Teams have been able to key on Ben, send help or double-team. Now that Elijah's a threat, they can't put that kind of energy into Ben exclusively.

Ben's 'slump' is largely a part of the defensive attention that other teams pay him.

This game (if it's not an anomaly) will have a huge impact on how teams try to defend us... New opportunities may reveal themselves.

The best thing is, I can't recall the last time we had two players score more than 30 in the same season.. Might have been 2008. (Mario and Brandon were both capable of putting up those numbers).

Also, I think every starter has been high scorer of for at least one game this season.. Usually, great distribution in scoring-ability is an advantage in March.

HawksWin 7 years, 8 months ago

A beautiful shot of Self & EJ! The pic captures fatherly tenderness & love, and son's acceptance & gratitude - something like that. Great photo Nick!!!

Steve Reigle 7 years, 8 months ago

Have to wonder if Ben is battling flu-like symptoms or other illness. Or is it just that the Big12 teams have figured out how to guard him, which means one quick defender never leaving him? If that's it, then Ben working on that would be good for his future.

Sparko 7 years, 8 months ago

"Exposed." That was Fran's stupid comment last night. Withey is a post player. If he has to go on the perimeter and watch the rim, it is really a scheming error, not a defensive lapse. You don't want perimeter players 30 feet out. ISU was simply chucking and running last night. Withey did what he could, but their offense had five outside the arc a lot of the night. ISU could easily have lost by a ton of points if they had gone cold earlier.

Marcia Parsons 7 years, 8 months ago

They also seemed shocked that Jeff had no blocks. I don't know where he would have gotten one. Did ISU ever leave the 3-point line?

Sparko 7 years, 8 months ago

Make that "Post Players" 30-feet from the rim. Grr

Ten Yeahs 7 years, 8 months ago

I think Elijah had his shoes on last night. Keep dem shoes on EJ! Don't ever take em off

Ten Yeahs 7 years, 8 months ago

Elijah is so dangerous when he attacks the rim! Opens up his outside game. Keep attacking! THE RETURN OF THE PROPHET! BOOOOM BABY!

Ten Yeahs 7 years, 8 months ago

BEST GAME OF THE YEAR LAST NIGHT! I would have been disappointed if KU lost last night, but not considerably disappointed. ISU played a heck of a game. I thought they had the game won. And when the other team plays like that and beats KU. Then you just gotta tip your hat to the better team that night. But The Prophet said "Not Tonight!" The Hilton Magic is Magical!

clevelandjayhawker 7 years, 8 months ago

I thought it was over when they threw an alley oop and it went in for a three...they couldnt miss last night from deep or from the line. Looking at the stat line there is no way we should have won...turnovers still need to be worked out, but that was some "majic" last night.

Steve Grimm 7 years, 8 months ago

Ben's "issue" is that he has mostly a one dimensional offensive game. He is a jump shooter that has to have someone set up his shot for him. He has not yet been able to create his own shots. That makes it easier to defend him. I also think, in high stakes games like last night, Ben seemed less willing to make a move he didn't have complete confidence in. Like he was concerned about messing up. My take, anyway. We all know he has the talent to grow his offensive game. I am hoping he begins to take that step with the remaining games.

jen4ku 7 years, 8 months ago

Elijah really needed that game. What makes it even better...WE (the team) needed it too!! RCJH!!

Greg Lux 7 years, 8 months ago

A number of things bother me about Ben's effort or lack thereof. One is he is just planting himself in the corner a lot of the time on offense. Which makes no sense. Second he is not in the offense most of the time. He is passive about setting screens, which he could roll off of for easier shots. He is not taking the open shot opportunities he is getting off screens. And lastly for this post, he is not driving the ball and he is operating at about half speed the last two road games. Call it what you want, but it almost has to be a lack of confidence or fear of failure that is holding him back. I blame his teammates for not getting him involved in the game. They know how important Ben is to our future this year and they need to run play after play to get him involved in the game. So what if he misses a few everyone else is and I would like to take my chances on Ben.

Rock Chalk

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