Elijah Johnson Carries Kansas
Much maligned senior has career night in clutch performance
By Andrew Curtis
Have you ever heard someone tell you that you’re too strong? Well, you’re in luck. Elijah Johnson will before he tells you to put your shoes on.
Johnson delivered one of the greatest individual performances in the storied history of Kansas basketball on Big Monday in front of a circus crowd in Ames, eventually extinguishing the “Hilton Magic” in the building to the extent of feather dust.
Both teams played at a high level, with Iowa State draining 17 three-pointers and KU overcoming a 5-point deficit in the final 29 seconds of regulation to tie the game, led by none other than Elijah Johnson, who scored 20 of his 39 points in the final five minutes.
Kansas had a 41 to 40 lead at the half and both teams had 90 points heading to the extra period.
This was probably the most fun college basketball game this season, and KU has been a part of a few of those. The other win over Iowa State at home, which featured “The Shot” By Ben McLemore, was similar in many ways, with the Jayhawks fittingly needing overtime to defeat the Cyclones like they did on Monday
Speaking of McLemore, he was a virtual no-show on the road for the second straight time. Jeff Withey had a quiet double-double, but he was stuck on the bench for much of the second half due to foul trouble and ended up fouling out.
Last week, I said McLemore was going to lead Kansas to two huge road wins. KU found a way to win, which is what they do, but I have my crow next to me, ready to eat it, regarding my McLemore comments.
Fortunately, Elijah Johnson stole the show and took over, making six of ten threes down the stretch and taking the ball to the rim.
The fact that Kansas overcame all of this adversity on the road is a testament to how good of a coach Bill Self is. Self, who picked a good way to win his 500th game of his Hall of Fame career, fired up Johnson during a timeout in a way that obviously worked.
The man certainly knows how to make kids respond, and that’s why he’s such a good coach. He also turns the kids he coaches into young men, and that’s exactly what Elijah Johnson has become.
Throughout the entire season, when everyone has been criticizing Johnson’s play, I’ve backed him up. I never stopped believing in him because he has the right attitude, he’s an outspoken vocal leader and just a flat out winner.
We saw it on full display last March, and Johnson decided to put his shoes back on and tie the laces with double knots on Monday night in a win that appears to put Kansas in a position to be poised for a 9th straight Big 12 title.
I know he has it in him. There’s too much talent and swagger there. I couldn’t be more happy for Elijah, and I fully endorse him as the leader on the crimson and blue brick road to the Final Four.
Yes, he’s back, and he’s here to stay. This is unquestionably Elijah Johnson’s team. Kansas will go as far as Elijah wants to take them in March, and he will carry them.