KU's Johnson soars; Big 12 admits officiating errors

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AMES Kansas outcast turned can’t-miss star Elijah Johnson issued an apology.

But only for two of his career high-shattering 39 points Monday that sank Iowa State in another crushing overtime loss — this one, 108-96 — against the No. 6 Jayhawks before a riled-up sellout crowd of 14,376 at Hilton Coliseum.

“First, I want to apologize to the head coach of Iowa State (Fred Hoiberg) for that last play of the game,” said Johnson, a senior who notched the last of a stunning 23 points scored in the final 7:59 of the game with an ill-advised slam in the closing seconds. “I shouldn’t have dunked that ball. I feel that.”

The snake-bitten Cyclones (19-9, 9-6) feel something else.

That’s pain wrought by two improbable last-gasp Kansas comebacks spaced 47 days apart.

First, Ben McLemore banked-in a 3-pointer that forced overtime Jan. 9 in a game the Jayhawks (24-4, 12-3) eventually won, 97-89.

Monday, Johnson’s eight points in the final 29 seconds of regulation erased an 87-82 Cyclone lead and knotted the score, 90-90.

“It’s hard,” said ISU point guard Korie Lucious, who scored a career-high 23 points, but blamed himself for Johnson’s late flare-up. “We felt like we had the game won. We just couldn’t get stops at the end of the game.”

Johnson’s biggest points, arguably, came in the form of two free throws with 4.9 seconds left in regulation.

He drove to the rim, made contact with Cyclone forward Georges Niang, and failed to get off a clean look.

Niang was called for a foul as a scrum for the loose ball ensued, igniting the ire of amped up ISU fans.

ESPN reported late Monday the Big 12 will be reviewing the calls made in the final one minute of regulation.

Update: The Big 12 released a statement Tuesday admitting that wrong calls were made at the end of regulation:

The Big 12 Conference acknowledges that officiating errors were made at the end of regulation during last night's Kansas at Iowa State men's basketball game. The plays have been reviewed and appropriate measures will be taken by the Coordinator of Men's Basketball Officials to adjust the number of future assignments for the two officials involved in conjunction with Conference policies.

“I thought Georges made a heck of a play by stepping in there and drawing contact, but, hey, it happens in this game,” said Hoiberg, whose team saw its 22-game home court win streak — including 14 in a row in Big 12 play — snapped. It didn’t go our way. It’s one of those things. You move past it and try to get on to the next play. Unfortunately we didn’t get it done in overtime.”

Johnson, who had been publicly called out by his coach, Bill Self, earlier this season during a rare three-game skid, did.

His previous career-best scoring effort was 26 points.

He scored 12 in the first meeting — matching the total he racked up in overtime alone Monday.

“Unbelievable,” said Self, who drew up a technical foul for himself two minutes into the game in an effort to fire up his team. “He was the best guard, the best player in the country (Monday). ... He just played great.”

The Cyclones shined on the offensive end, drilling a school-record 17 3-pointers.

Super sub Tyrus McGee hit six of them and finished with 22 points.

“Wow, what a game he had,” Self said.

Niang made three from beyond the arc — including one that established the seemingly comfortable 87-82 lead before Johnson, a guard, channeled his inner Wilt Chamberlain.

“Wilt had some pretty good ones,” Self said when asked where Johnson’s performance may rank in Jayhawk lore. “That will go down as one of the better games that any guard’s ever played at Kansas.”

Niang said ISU is down, but far from out.

“A call’s a call,” he said. “We’re men here. We’re going to move on. I promise you one thing: We’re going to come back even harder.”

Of that, Hoiberg has no doubt.

“We’ve just got to find a way to get stops,” he said. “When we get that, we’ve got a long season ahead of us.”

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