As soon as it left his hand, McLemore dutifully yelled, ”Bank!”
It would have counted even if he hadn’t.
The shot banked off the glass and went through the net, pulling sixth-ranked Kansas into a tie with Iowa State with a single second left in regulation. Their game Wednesday night went to overtime, and the Jayhawks scored the first nine points to wrap up a stunning 97-89 victory.
”The way it left my hand, I knew it was going to hit the backboard,” said McLemore, who finished with a career-high 33 points – and was apparently wise enough to call his dramatic shot off the glass, just in case anybody wanted to argue it was a lucky make.
Including his own coach, Bill Self.
”We executed perfectly,” Self said. ”Travis set a great screen and Ben was fortunate, because he didn’t call glass, I’m sure.”
McLemore ended up 10 of 12 from the field and was perfect on six 3-pointers for the Jayhawks (13-1, 1-0 Big 12), who have won 12 straight as they pursue a ninth consecutive Big 12 title.
One that might be a little more difficult than previously thought.
Iowa State (10-4, 0-1) poured in 14 3-pointers, and had forged a 79-76 lead after two free throws by Korie Lucious with 8.4 seconds left in regulation. But that’s when Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg chose not to foul, and that allowed McLemore to let loose with his tying 3.
”It backfired on us. That’s the breaks of the game,” Hoiberg said. ”I wish it would have swished. I would feel better about myself right now if that didn’t bank in.”
McLemore, who also made a key four-point play late in the game, added another 3-pointer to open overtime, and the Jayhawks used a series of free throws to seal the win.
Withey finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Johnson and Releford scored 12 each for the Jayhawks, who have won 22 straight league openers and 30 in a row at Allen Fieldhouse.
”We had the formula to lose that game. We were down with a couple minutes left, they kept getting offensive rebounds and scoring, and Ben just took over,” Withey said. ”The last couple minutes, he had the four-point play and then the last play was unbelievable.”
Melvin Ejim had 19 points and Lucious added 15 for the Cyclones, though he missed the front end of a one-and-one late in the game that could have helped Iowa State secure the win.
Will Clyburn finished with 16 points, Georges Niang had 13 and Chris Babb and Tyrus McGee added 11 each for the Cyclones, who have lost 13 of their last 14 to the Jayhawks.
”We know we let one slip away,” Hoiberg said. ”But at the same time, if you come in here and compete with a team that’s won eight championships in a row, you can compete with anyone.”
Iowa State came into the game leading the Big 12 in scoring, and its hoist-a-3 offense was at work from the opening minute, when Niang poured in two quick shots from beyond the arc.
Johnson matched him with two 3-pointers of his own, and that began a back-and-forth 20 minutes that featured nine lead changes. And even when the Jayhawks built a 40-32 lead, Iowa State managed to whittle it to 42-38 by the break.
Kansas pushed it back out to 48-40 in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Cyclones’ half-court defense buckled down. The Jayhawks went their next seven possessions without scoring, turning it over three times and failing to get a single offensive board.
Iowa State put together a 12-1 run that included 3-pointers on consecutive trips by Babb deep on the wing, and the second one gave the Cyclones a 54-49 lead with 13 minutes left.
The only points Kansas scored for nearly nine minutes came on three free throws.
The drought finally ended when Withey stepped in front of a pass on the wing, tipped the loose ball ahead to Releford, and he dunked in transition. But Hoiberg quickly called a timeout, and that served to quiet the crowd and rein back the Jayhawks’ momentum.
Lucious poured in two 3-pointers down the stretch, and another from McGee from well beyond the arc gave Iowa State a 73-67 with 3:59 left. The teams kept trading blows, and a basket from Ejim inside gave the Cyclones a 77-73 lead with a minute remaining.
Johnson made the second of two free throws for Kansas, and Lucious was fouled. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Johnson’s driving layup made it 77-76 with 14.5 seconds left.
Lucious was fouled again with 8.4 seconds to go, and this time he made both of his attempts to restore a three-point cushion. But with time winding down, Johnson found McLemore coming open on the wing, and the freshman knocked in the shot of the night as Allen Fieldhouse erupted.
”I mean, when it left my hand, I actually called, ‘Bank!”’ McLemore insisted. ”It was a good release and it went in, so I’m glad.”
— Associated Press —