Skip to content

For Elijah Johnson, Monday’s comeback was about more than just one win

Feb 26, 2013, 12:20 AM EDT

Bill Self, Elijah Johnson

Iowa State, playing in one of the toughest home-court environments in the country, hit 17 threes and scored 90 points in regulation against No. 6 Kansas and still managed to lose, 108-96 in overtime.

Why?

Elijah Johnson.

*(Before I get any further here, the referees were terrible down the stretch in this game. They gave Jeff Withey’s fifth foul, which was clearly on Withey, to Kevin Young. They also blew a charge call and then gifted Kansas a loose ball foul on the final possession that led to the game-tying free throws. Oh, and after the blown charge call, Withey kept the offensive rebound alive to create the opportunity for the loose ball foul. Just a terrible, terrible job down the stretch.)

The Jayhawk’s senior guard finished with 39 points, on 13-22 shooting, and seven assists. But what was more impressive than the numbers he finished with was how he finished the game.

After Iowa State’s Georges Niang hit a three to put the Cyclones up 87-82 with less than a minute left, Johnson answered with a three of his own with 32 seconds on the clock. After two free throws from Korie Lucious, he hit another three 17 seconds left. After Lucious went 1-2 from the line, Johnson forced overtime when he knocked down two free throws with 4.9 ticks left.

And he wasn’t done. He kicked off overtime with a layup and a jumper. After finding Travis Releford for a wide-open three on the next possession, Johnson came down and buried another three, giving Kansas a 100-92 lead. ISU would score four straight points to make things interesting again, but with just over a minute left in the extra period, Johnson drilled a fadeaway, 25-foot three as the shot clock horn sounded, all but ending any hope of Hilton Magic.

All told, Johnson scored eight points in the final 32 seconds of regulation and 10 points in the first four minutes of overtime. Throw in his assist to Releford, and the oft-maligned senior guard accounted for all 21 Jayhawk points in a 21-9, game-winning run.

What makes this performance all the more impressive is that, while playing better over the last three games for the Jayhawks, Johnson has really struggled this season. Bill Self has tried to convert him to the point full-time, and it’s been somewhat of a disaster. His confidence was completely shot during the Jayhawk’s three-game losing streak, and he not only looked like he was completely lost on the court, he simply didn’t look like a kid that was having any fun.

For a senior, that’s a shame.

But it was never a talent issue for Johnson. He’s got the ability to be an effective player for the Jayhawks, whether he’s handling the ball or playing alongside Naadir Tharpe. The Jayhawk’s situation at the point is not ideal, but it’s far from a worse-case scenario.

Johnson isn’t a true point guard, but he’s also not as bad as he has been this season.

And that’s why this game is so important.

Just because Johnson took over for a five-minute stretch in a tough road environment doesn’t change the fact that, at practice tomorrow, Self is still going to be without a true point guard running the show. But he will have his most talented option at the point brimming with confidence. With the way that Kansas can defend, they don’t need Trey Burke. They don’t need Phil Pressey. What they need is Johnson — and, for that matter, Tharpe — knocking down open threes, creating off the dribble when there is a lane, and avoiding those soul-crushing turnovers that result in layups at the other end of the floor.

A confident Johnson can be that guy.

And that’s what makes this game — and this performance from Johnson — so important.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: UTEP head coach Tim Floyd emerges as a candidate for Missouri job

    Apr 22, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The UTEP coach is now a candidate to replace Frank Haith at Missouri.

  2. Former Marquette commit Marial Shayok picks Virginia

    Apr 22, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Virginia got its fourth commit on Tuesday night.

  3. UConn’s journey to the 2014 National Title (VIDEO)

    Apr 22, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT

    UConn AP

    A look back on UConn’s second title in four years.

  4. Southern and head coach Roman Banks agree to new deal

    Apr 22, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Southern coach is receiving a contract extension.

  5. Oregon point guard Johnathan Loyd practices with football team

    Apr 22, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Loyd is converting from point guard to wide receiver.

  6. John Egbunu becomes fifth player to transfer from South Florida

    Apr 22, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Bulls announced the fifth departure this spring.

  7. Andrew Wiggins is the most searched athlete in Kansas … and Kentucky

    Apr 22, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Andrew Wiggins is the most searched athlete in two states, according to a recent study.

  8. Auburn will not appeal Bruce Pearl’s show-cause penalty

    Apr 22, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Auburn will accept the punishment that has been given to Pearl by the NCAA.

  9. Kentucky freshman Julius Randle has formally declared for the NBA Draft

    Apr 22, 2014, 1:57 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Kentucky is still waiting for a decision from four players.

  10. Report: Illinois forward Darius Paul arrested

    Apr 22, 2014, 1:18 PM EDT

    ILLINOIS_WALLMARX_LOGO-220x300

    Darius is the younger brother of former Illini guard Brandon Paul.

  11. ACC’s league schedule highlights the flaws of massive power conferences

    Apr 22, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    spt-110919-acc-logo

    The ACC schedule is what happens when leagues get too big.

  12. Mixtape for Ivan Rabb, the No. 2 recruit in the country (VIDEO)

    Apr 22, 2014, 10:55 AM EDT

    Ivan Rabb is the best big man in a loaded class of bigs, according to Rivals.

  13. Report: Clemson’s K.J McDaniels to enter the 2014 NBA Draft

    Apr 22, 2014, 9:53 AM EDT

    K.J. McDaniels AP

    K.J. McDaniels might win an NBA dunk contest one day.

  14. Willie Cauley-Stein has surgery, gets a new on-campus vehicle?

    Apr 22, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT

    Cauley-Stein will be out for a couple of months.

  15. Report: Indiana assistant coach Kenny Johnson moves on to Louisville

    Apr 21, 2014, 11:54 PM EDT

    Indianapolis Star Indianapolis Star

    Indiana assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kenny Johnson is moving on to Louisville.

  16. Report: Tennessee hires Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall

    Apr 21, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT

    Donnie Tyndall AP

    Tennessee found its man on Monday night as the Vols hired Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall.

  17. Reports: LSU freshman Jordan Mickey still undecided on 2014 NBA Draft

    Apr 21, 2014, 9:46 PM EDT

    jordan mickey AP

    LSU freshman forward Jordan Mickey is still deciding whether or not to enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

  18. Rice transfer Sean Obi commits to Duke

    Apr 21, 2014, 8:53 PM EDT

    Mike Krzyzewski AP

    Duke landed an impact transfer on Monday with Rice big man Sean Obi.

Featured video

Derrick Gordon says 'Why not me?'