Big Shot Ben

It was the kind of performance reminiscent of another #23 and the times that he would put his team on his back and pull them through in a tight game down the stretch.

It was the kind of performance reminiscent of another #23 and the times that he would put his team on his back and pull them through in a tight game down the stretch.

No, this wasn't Michael Jordan but it was KU's #23. Freshman Ben McLemore rose up and answered the call with his team down late in its Big 12 opener. His performance will go down as one of the best by any freshman in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

33 points, that included 20 in the second half, and was highlighted by perfect 6-6 shooting from three. On a night that left fans scrambling for superlatives on Twitter, "Big Shot Ben" grabbed the world of college basketball by the nape of the neck and seemingly said "Hey, look at me here I am."

Except that's not Ben.

The freshman who uses the twitter handle @Humb1e_Hungry23, finds ways to dominate and still be humble in the process. He's as graceful off the court with his class as he is on every jump shot he takes.

There was a lot at stake for KU tonight.

The Hawks hadn't lost a conference-opener at home since 1991, KU had won 99 of its last 100 games at home, and currently had won 29 in row in a place that is just a nightmare if you're not in home white.

But it looked bleak, the crowd of over 16,000 was eerily silent. Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones buoyed by three-pointers and three-point plays collectively put up the index finger to sshhhhhhh a home crowd not used to being down three with less than 9 seconds on the clock.

But there was still a quiet confidence down the stretch within this group that SOMETHING would happen, there's no way this team would lose in the friendly confines of Phog Allen Fieldhouse. KU Head Coach Bill Self always seems to find a way to make his kids believe that it's never over. Not just by his words but by his actions.

And maybe it was the ghost of Phog Allen that took over when Self called the play now known to KU fans as the "Chalmers play". In the waning seconds, down three, after getting the ball from Elijah Johnson on the wing, Ben McLemore rose up and banked a three off the glass to tie the game at 79 with a second left in regulation.

Doubtful he called glass on the shot, but it was the three points Kansas needed to bring the arena and this Big 12 season to life. Then just when you thought he was done, McLemore began the overtime with a three-pointer and the Jayhawks never looked back winning 97-89.

The conjecture and controversy after the game will be about the Cyclones not fouling up three just like John Calipari's Memphis Tigers in 2008, and about ISU going under a Travis Releford screen on the play. But nothing will overshadow the talk about McLemore, and nothing should.

Just like in 2008, pundits and fans have been wondering who would take over when the games became tight. I don't think anyone has to worry anymore about whether or not McLemore could handle that role. He's ready, willing, and able and looked as calm down the stretch as he does in a 20-point blowout.

Iowa State was tough and Kansas wasn't its formidable self on defense and yes, there are things to improve on in order to make a run to a 9th straight Big 12 title. But the last two games have proven when the going gets tough Kansas gets going and tonight it started with #23.

Ben McLemore is special and now the rest of the college basketball world knows it too. Top Stories