McLemore’s heroics push Kansas to victory
- Jan. 9, 2013
- 1 Comment
It’s a rare occurrence when Allen Fieldhouse goes silent, but for a moment against Iowa State it did.
When Ben McLemore smoothly lifted off James Naismith court to launch his game-tying three with 1.3 seconds remaining in Kansas’ Big 12 opener no one in Allen Fieldhouse could quite put a voice to what was unfolding.
Who would have fathomed Iowa State marching into Allen Fieldhouse and holding a lead until the bitter last seconds?
Or that the Cyclones would knock down an unimaginable 14 three-pointers?
Or that Kansas could go more than eight minutes without a field goal?
So when McLemore launched the Jayhawks’ last effort to hang onto a 30-game winning streak at home, every patron grabbed a last breath of the victorious air and held it in case there wouldn’t be another, silenced by how it ever came to this point.
“We got lucky,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of the Jayhawks’ 97-89 overtime victory.
It started with a four minute stretch where McLemore scored 10 points — four of which came on one possession as he was fouled while sinking a three.
The shots just kept falling for McLemore, one after another and from no spot in particular. It wasn’t that he couldn’t miss, it was that he didn’t.
“I haven’t seen too many perimeter players ever take 12 shots and get 33 points,” Self said of McLemore. “This was Ben’s night.”
And on Ben’s night, with Kansas trailing 79-76 and eight seconds remaining, the last attempt wasn’t going to anyone else.
Naadir Tharpe kicked off the infamous Kansas “chop” play — the same play that set up Mario Chalmers for his National Championship tying shot in 2008 and the same play that failed two months ago against Michigan State.
Tharpe dribbled up the right side of the court, handed the ball off to Elijah Johnson as he cut to his left and let Johnson find the next option.
“It reminded me of the Michigan State game with me not taking that shot,” Johnson said. “I was thinking maybe I’ve got to check myself this time and make sure it’s not my shot.”
It wasn’t, and instead Johnson found McLemore, whose defender had sagged off. Without hesitating, the freshman let it fly.
“This is about to hit off the glass,” Naadir Tharpe recalled thinking.
“I called bank,” McLemore said after.
“He didn’t call glass,” Self said.
Intended or not, the shot kissed the backboard and fell straight in, just like McLemore’s previous four attempts behind the arc on the night.
Yet this wasn’t like his other shots. This one set off a blast of emotions that Kevin Young could only compare to last year’s 19-point comeback against Missouri as Kansas fans began breathing again.
“It was a great screen from Elijah,” McLemore said. “I just shot it and it felt good coming off my hand.”
There might have been only one person who believed the Cyclones emerged victorious as McLemore etched his place in Kansas history, and he had arguably the best view.
“As it left his hand I said, ‘We got it,’” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It looked like it was off to the left and it banks in.”
The Jayhawk faithful kept their rowdy demeanor until there was no doubt Kansas had locked up another victory.
And after a moment of silence everyone had something to say, including one Kansas fan who barked a question at the Cyclones as they walked off the floor.
“Was it loud enough for you?”
Blake is a senior from Chicago, Ill., studying journalism on the news and information track. Read more from Blake Schuster.