Few players get criticized as much as Elijah Johnson during his senior season, and while the actions of the final moments during regulation as Kansas pulled away for a win at the very difficult Iowa State weren’t acceptable by everyone, Johnson’s huge game and contribution to the win was never in doubt.
Johnson was involved in one of the moments the NCAA will review, as Kansas trailed 88-90 in the final seconds, when Johnson drove to the middle, colliding with Georges Niang, appearing to have his feet set. No charge or foul was called, but a holding foul was called on Niang while fighting for the loose ball, giving Johnson an opportunity to make two from the line, and send the game into overtime.
Johnson scored 8 points in the final 29 seconds of the game to bring Kansas back from oblivion, and continued to look nothing like the player he has been over his four seasons with the Jayhawks, scoring 12 in the final five minutes, leading Kansas to a 108-96 victory in Ames, where the Cyclones haven’t lost in a very long time.
Yes, the three point shooting by Iowa State during the game was nothing short of ridiculous, making 17 of 41 attempts from beyond the arc. But nothing was crazier than Johnson’s performance in the final minutes, hitting two three pointers to cut the lead back before the final play everyone in Ames were angry about, leading a fan to try and confront Bill Self, who only wanted to celebrate his 500th win, which probably wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t for a bad no-call by the referees, although you don’t see referees giving charge calls in the final seconds of games.
And yet, Johnson did draw more anger in the final moments, as he dunked on the final possession, which is somewhat of a no-no among teams, showing some sort of lack of respect when the win is no longer in doubt.
First, before I answer any questions or talk about the game, I want to apologize to the head coach at Iowa State for that last play of the game. I shouldn’t have dunked that ball. Right now, I’m feeling that. I should have dribbled that ball out. I just got caught in the moment. I saw an open basket, and I attacked it. Kind of got tunnel vision. I guess it was rubbing off that whole end of the game.
That drew fans to jeer and throw cups at the arena floor. Sometimes people forget that the only thing separating college sports from professional sports, where the only target should be playing to the best of your ability, is athletes not getting paid, while everyone is making money off of them. There’s nothing wrong with showing a lack of respect to your opponents, as long as it isn’t something violent or illegal. Scoring more points is frowned upon in American Sports, for whatever reason.
I wasn’t very happy with him. I thought he made a couple of bonehead plays early, and I know I went to him and got onto him. He said, ‘Coach, next play. That’s what you always say, next play. Forget it.’ And I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’ll forget it when I finish talking about the last play, OK?’ So that was our way of me getting him to be stubborn and me getting him to be competitive. That’s what I want from our guys.