The Big 12 Conference wants its sexiest basketball program to win its championship and needs it to have a higher seed and theoretically smoother sailing in the NCAA tournament. And the league's officiating fraternity showed once again Monday that it got the memo.
Kansas beat Iowa State, 108-96 in overtime, thanks in large part to an ignored charge by the Jayhawks' Elijah Johnson in the waning seconds of regulation. With the Cyclones on top, 90-88, Johnson barreled over ISU's Georges Niang, then landed on top of Niang, who was subsequently called for a foul while laying beneath Johnson in a loose ball scramble.
Johnson made two free throws to tie the game and send it into overtime, where Kansas pulled away. Johnson's free throws were just part of a 39-point individual scoring outburst. His individual effort overshadowed a school-record 17 three-point field goals by Iowa State, which had led by five points with under a minute to play in regulation.
The Cyclones fell to 19-9 overall and 9-6 in Big 12 play. Iowa State plays at Oklahoma on Saturday. Kansas moved into a first-place tie with Kansas State atop the Big 12 standings, both at 12-3.
ESPN reported early Tuesday morning that Big 12 supervisor of basketball officials Curtis Shaw said the officiating in the game's final minute would be reviewed at the conference office. But that impotent formality will do little to satiate an angry Cyclone fan base.
The Big 12 officiating crew assigned to the game was comprised of Mark Whitehead, Tom O'Neill and Bert Smith.
ISU's loss to Kansas on Monday ended a 22-game home winning streak at Hilton Coliseum. It was Iowa State's second OT loss of the year to the Jayhawks and was every bit as gut wrenching as the first.
The Cyclones certainly had their chances to win. Iowa State led by seven with just over five minutes to play and was up 87-82 with only 47 seconds left in the game. ISU scored just one two-point field goal in the second half, but rained in points three-at-a-time from the outside and one-at-a-time from the free throw line. The Cyclones made 29-of-34 free throws in the game.
Iowa State jumped out to a 14-7 lead to start the game. But Kansas responded with a 14-3 run for a 21-17 with twelve minutes to go in the opening half. ISU then scored seven straight for a 24-21 lead. The Cyclones led, 27-23, on a Tyrus McGee three-pointer with just under nine minutes to play in the half. The lead seesawed back and forth until KU took a 41-40 edge to the locker room at halftime.
Kansas' biggest lead in regulation came early in the second half as the Jayhawks led 48-42 with just under 18 to play. Iowa State rallied for a 53-51 lead on a Korie Lucious three at the 16:15 mark. McGee hit a three with 13:41 on the clock to put ISU ahead 61-60 and the Cyclones never again trailed in regulation.
The lead swelled to seven at 79-72 on a Lucious three at the 5:24 mark. A McGee three made it six at 82-76 with 3:59 to go and a Niang three with 47 seconds to play made it 87-82 Cyclones. But KU's Johnson made two three-pointers and his controversial free throws to knot it at 90 at the end of regulation. A Lucious three on Iowa State's final possession drew iron but didn't really have a chance to go in.
Like the overtime in Lawrence, things got away from Iowa State in the extra session. With the game tied at 92, Kansas went on an 8-0 run for a 100-92 lead. The Cyclones clawed back within four at 100-96 but Johnson then tossed in a deep three to beat the shot clock and make it 103-96 with 54 seconds to go in overtime.
ISU did not score again and Johnson ended another 8-0 KU with an undefended and unnecessary breakaway slam in the waning seconds of OT. He apologized for doing so in the post-game press conference.
Lucious had 23 points to lead Iowa State scorers and McGee pumped in 22.