With a little over eight seconds to play, Allen Fieldhouse was eerily quiet, as Kansas drove down for a last chance desperation shot at overtime at best.
With the Jayhawks down 79-76, fans hoped, but knew that the overwhelming favorites to win a ninth consecutive Big 12 championship was going to lose at home to Iowa State and start 0-1 in league play.
At that moment, guard Ben McLemore decided that was enough of that. With a shot that invoked memories of Mario Chalmers’ miracle three that saved and eventually led to the winning of a National title five years ago, McLemore hung high in the air and released a three pointer that banked in and stunned the Cyclones and everyone else for that matter.
Though, 1.3 seconds and an overtime remained, it didn’t matter. Like that night in San Antonio, the damaged was done and the opponent, Iowa State was finished, as behind McLemore 33 points and entry into Jayhawk folklore, Kansas survived a scare and in the end, simply notched their first conference victory, 97-89 before the customary sellout crowd in Allen Fieldhouse, Wednesday night.
"He's unbelievable," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He's got the potential to be the No. 1 pick in the (NBA) draft. He's great now, and he's got great upside just because of his athleticism, he's got a great stroke, he's got great elevation on his shot and he seems like a wonderful kid. He's a star."
McLemore’s 33 points was two shy of Danny Manning’s freshman record at Kansas of 35. He scored his points on 10 of 12 shooting, including a perfect six for six from three point range and a perfect seven of seven at the foul line.
The shot was the biggest moment so far in a season of big moments from the redshirt freshman.
“The way it left my hand, I knew it was going to hit the backboard. It was a good release. It went in, so I'm glad,” McLemore said.
The shot, which came off the same play that led to Chalmers’ miracle will be all anyone talks about, but the truth is Kansas (13-1, 1-0) survived a scare from an Iowa State (10-4, 0-1) team that seemed determined to continue it’s unique history of playing the Jayhawks tough as any conference team will in Lawrence.
The Cyclones attempted an astounding 38 three pointers, connecting on 14 of them. After trailing 42-38 at halftime, a 14-1 run helped Iowa State grab the lead, stretching it to as much as six with just 4:01 to play.
The confidence was high throughout the night and with six players finishing in double figures, a message was still sent that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12 this season despite their heartbreaking defeat.
"It hurts," Hoiberg said. "It's going to hurt all night long, driving back to Ames on a bus. And then you let it go. Our guys know we let one slip away. They're very disappointed about that. But, at the same time, if you can come in here and compete with a team that's won eight league championships in a row, you can play with anybody in the country. That's going to be the mindset going forward."
As for the Jayhawks, league openers usually don’t come with this much suspense, but Kansas coach Bill Self will take it as well as a win in the league opener.
“In situations like that, you just hope you get a good look and we were fortunate we got a good look and got a good break and made the most of the break,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I’m really happy for our guys and proud of them, we hung in there.”
The Cyclones will hope that their bus ride leads to them putting the loss behind them before their next game with Texas, Saturday.
As for the Jayhawks, they’ll just hope things get less suspenseful starting with Saturday afternoon’s matchup with Texas Tech in Lubbock, before a Big Monday showdown with Baylor next week in Allen Fieldhouse.