AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State still has a decent shot at a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
But if the Cyclones wind up in the NIT instead, they will have only themselves to blame.
Kansas’ Elijah Johnson scored a career-high 39 points — including eight in the final 29 seconds of regulation and 12 in overtime — and No. 6 Kansas rallied to beat Iowa State 108-96 on Monday night, Kansas coach Bill Self’s 500th win.
Travis Releford added 19 points for the Jayhawks (24-4, 12-3 Big 12), who snapped Iowa State’s 22-game home winning streak and kept pace with No. 13 Kansas State atop the Big 12.
Iowa State has lost three overtime Big 12 games — including two heartbreakers to Kansas. Throw in a last-second loss at Oklahoma State, and a Cyclones team that could have competed for the Big 12 title is now scrambling for its postseason life.
Iowa State wraps up at Oklahoma, against Oklahoma State at home and at West Virginia. None of those figure to be easy.
“Hopefully we have a lot of season left. We’ve got to bounce back with these last three and hopefully beyond that,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I love our guys. They’re going to continue to fight back, and I’m very confident in them.”
The Cyclones have had trouble defensively in the closing moments of key games.
They simply had no answer for Johnson down the stretch.
Johnson hit two 3s and made two free throws with 4.9 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 90-all. He and Releford buried 3s to put Kansas ahead 100-92 with 2:03 left, and Johnson drilled a 30-footer with 54 seconds left that deflated a sellout crowd.
Korie Lucious scored 23 points and Tyrus McGee had 22 for the Cyclones (19-9, 9-6), who lost despite hitting a school-record 17 3-pointers.
“I thought we defended better late this game. It was a kid making a couple of great plays,” Hoiberg said of Johnson.
After the game a handful of those in the student section hurled small plastic megaphones at the Jayhawks as they ran back to their locker room.
The anger seemed to be directed at Johnson’s dunk with 2 seconds left and the game well in hand. Johnson opened the post-game news conference by apologizing to Hoiberg, saying he simply got caught up in the moment.
“I shouldn’t have dunked that ball,” Johnson said. “I should have dribbled that ball out.”
For all the talk concerning Self’s quest for win No. 500, this game seemed destined to hinge upon whether Iowa State, one of the nation’s best offenses, could score enough on the stingy Jayhawks, the nation’s leader in field goal percentage defense entering play.
As it turned out, both teams had little trouble making shots until overtime.
That’s when the Cyclones lost their touch.
Freshman Georges Niang beat the shot clock with a 3, Iowa State’s 17th of the game, to give the Cyclones an 87-82 lead with 44.5 seconds left. But Johnson answered, and the Jayhawks went 6 of 7 from the field in overtime while Iowa State went 1 of 9.
“We just couldn’t get stops at the end of the game,” Lucious said. “It’s hard. We feel like we had the game won.”
For Iowa State, this loss was painfully similar to the one in Lawrence on Jan. 9.
Ben McLemore banked in a late 3 to force overtime of a game the Cyclones had controlled throughout. The Jayhawks prevailed, and though the Cyclones bounced back they certainly didn’t forget their lost night in Lawrence.
But with March just around the corner, Iowa State and the rest of the league is chasing the Jayhawks — again.
“We’ve played this team two times to overtime, a top 5 team in the country. It’s unfortunate that we walk away with zero wins against them,” Hoiberg said.