Can Elijah Johnson become a Kansas legend?

Elijah Johnson had a hell of a game on Monday night against Iowa State.

Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by several things that the media preferred to focus on: the officials’ performance reviewed by the Big 12, Elijah Johnson getting threatened by a bunch of Twitter tough-guys, Bill Self getting charged by an angry Iowa State booster, and ESPN showing the child of Iowa State head coach crying on national television.

But the biggest story of the night was ignored. Elijah Johnson’s stat line was: 39 points on 12-for-22 shooting, 6-for-10 from 3-point range, and seven assists. To put that into perspective:

  • Johnson’s 39 points was the most by a Jayhawk since Terry Brown scored 42 against North Carolina State on January 5th, 1991.
  • Johnson’s 39 points is tied for 19th all time for a Kansas player in a game (click to enlarge)Kansas-Jayhawks-single-game-scoring-record
  • Johnson is also tied for 18th all time by a Big 12 player (click to enlarge)Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 12.08.04 AM
  • Johnson’s 18 second-half points tied Thomas Robinson (vs. Texas in the second half on March 3rd, 2012) for the sixth most by a Jayhawk in a half since the 1988-89 season.
  • Johnson scored 12 points in overtime, the most ever by a Jayhawk in a single overtime period.
  • Johnson had eight points in the final 35.7 seconds of regulation, including two three-pointers and two-free throws.
  • Johnson’s previous career-high was 26 points.
  • Johnson’s seven assists led to 16 Jayhawk points (four jumpers, one lay-up and two three-pointers)

Pretty good right?

It’s not secret that Elijah Johnson has struggled at times this season. During KU’s three-game losing skid, Johnson was 9-for-37 from the field, including 5-for-21 from 3-point range and had 10 turnovers with just 11 assists.

But Johnson’s struggles were a main focal point of fan’s frustrations starting about four games before the losing streak. Again Texas, Johnson took a team-high 11 shots for Kansas. He only made one field goal, with 8:47 left in the second half. Ben McLemore, arguably the team’s best shooter and player, only had 10 field goal attempts.

The following game at No. 11 Kansas State, Johnson’s struggles continued as he was 3-for-10 from the field, but had zero field goals in the second half and had five turnovers.

elijah-johnson-turnover
Source: Daily Kansan

But it was really the three-game losing streak that really took a hit to Elijah Johnson’s psyche.

Following the loss to Oklahoma State, Bill Self told the media: “We don’t have a point guard.” To be fair, Johnson has never really been a point guard. Part of Self’s reaction was to Johnson turning the ball over in the final possession for Kansas, which lead to a breakaway dunk for the Cowboys and sealed their first loss at home in 33-games.

Then Self said this: “It’s sad. We were definitely a better team with [Elijah Johnson] sitting next to us.”

Ouch.

Fast forward to Monday.

Bill Self has this to say: “That’s as good as we’ve had any guard ever play here.”

Now that’s what Kansas fans want to hear (and see).

And really… Elijah Johnson’s performance was truly amazing. He hit just about everything. Truth is, Johnson has played really well for the Jayhawks the past two weeks.

Against Texas on February 16th, Johnson had 12 points and was 5-for-10 from the field. In the double overtime win against Oklahoma State, Johnson had 10 points before fouling out. Then against TCU, he had seven points on 2-for-5 shooting in just 29 minutes.

elijah-johnson-iowa-state
Source: USA Today

But the biggest difference for Johnson in those game was that he was looking for easy baskets, rather than taking contested jumpers. In the three game stretch from February 16th to the 23rd, Johnson only took five 3-point shots (making two). He attempted zero during the Oklahoma State game (double overtime 68-67 win for Kansas).

Johnson drained his first three-point attempt against Iowa State on Monday three minutes into the game before missing three straight the rest of the half. However, Elijah Johnson didn’t attempt a three-pointer until 9:47 left in the second half, which gave Kansas a 66-64 lead before missing his last three-pointer with 8:45 to go.

Johnson’s next attempted three was in a do-or-die situation. Kansas was down 87-82 with 40 seconds left and Travis Releford missed a three-point attempt. At that point, most Kansas fans accepted they’d lose the game. However, Johnson ended up hitting a 3-pointer out of a timeout. And then hit another with 15 seconds to go. Suddenly, Kansas was down just one.

Elijah-Johnson-Iowa-State
Source: Lawrence Journal-World

Then of course, Johnson got to the free throw line to tie the game up with five seconds to go on the controversial call.

Johnson went on to score 27 of Kansas last 38 points, including 12 in overtime and eight in the final 32 seconds of regulation.

To say it was anything less than a legendary performance is a lie.

elijah-johnson-three-pointer-iowa-state
Source: Lawrence Journal-World

Elijah Johnson capped his amazing performance off with a dunk with 1 second left in the game, solidifying him among some of the best performances in Kansas and Big 12 history.

Johnson apologized for it... but Kansas fans had no reason to be mad at him. Johnson has his swag back…

Kansas next game is in March. Elijah Johnson is a career 52% shooter in March.

Last year, Elijah Johnson had 130 points on 49-for-90 shooting (54%) in eight March games and one April game (14.44 points per game). He was 22-for-44 from 3-point range. The only game in March he didn’t have double figures was against Texas. He had nine points.

If Johnson continues his March Madness in 2013, it’ll be hard to stop Kansas. If Elijah Johnson were to average 11.4 points through the a potential 12 games (three regular season games, three Big 12 tournament games and six NCAA tournament games), he’ll be Kansas’ 56th all-time 1,000 point scorer.

If he can somehow lead Kansas to their second straight National Championship game, he’ll be the first Jayhawk starting guard to play in back to back National Championship games in school history.

Now that’s legendary.