McLemore’s Miracle

Bill Self went to old reliable on Wednesday night. The Mario Chalmers’ play. Except this time with a twist and a kiss.

Ben McLemore’s banked 3-pointer with a second left brought back a lot of memories for Kansas fans. Not only did it send the game to overtime, just like in 2008, the ending was inevitable. Kansas 97, Iowa State 89.

Self has gone to this play countless times throughout the years — before and after Chalmers’ 3 — and with varying degrees of success. Teams know it’s coming, but Self has added different wrinkles to keep it fresh.

Everyone, including the Cyclones, had to expect that Elijah Johnson, playing the Chalmers’ role, was going to take the shot to try to tie it. As you can see in this first screen shot, Jeff Withey is setting a screen to free Johnson. Only this time around KU had some action on the left side of the court as well, and Travis Releford set a screen for McLemore.

Georges Niang was guarding McLemore and Releford (circled below) takes him out of the play. Releford’s man, Tyrus McGee, was in the paint not expecting McLemore to get the ball, which allowed him a clean look at the basket.

What will probably go unnoticed by most is that KU had another option in case Iowa State took McLemore away. Back on the right side, Withey was setting a second pick to free Naadir Tharpe, who would have also been wide open had Johnson decided not to go to McLemore.

Here is the play in real time.

This setup is similar to what Self ran on the final offensive possession of regulation in the overtime win against Mizzou last year.

On that play, the handoff went to Tyshawn Taylor. On the left side of the court, Releford (circled below) was again setting a screen, this time trying to free Conner Teahan. He actually sets two different screens trying to get Teahan open on the flare. Robinson, after setting a screen for Taylor, went to set a second screen for Johnson, who had executed the initial handoff.

Since Teahan is clearly covered, Taylor throws the ball back to Johnson as he comes off Robinson’s screen.

Johnson did not have a look at a three, so he attacked the paint as Robinson rolled to the rim.

With Steve Moore stepping up to stop Johnson’s penetration, Johnson delivers a perfect pass to Robinson, who was fouled by Michael Dixon and given a chance to tie the game, as he did. You probably know the rest.

Here’s that play in real time (scroll to 1:23:00 to see it).

The McLemore bank was a really similar set to what KU ran in the final play of regulation at Missouri last year, which was a failed attempt.

You have Releford (circled) setting the screen for Johnson, who received the handoff. And Robinson is trying to set a flare screen to free Teahan on the other side.

Teahan (circled) was not open this time and that forced Johnson to hold onto the ball and take the shot.

By the time Johnson realized he had to shoot, Missouri had recovered and he didn’t have a good look.

Here’s is that failed attempt in real time (scroll to the 1:21:10 mark).

And finally, the original. Or at least the famous one.

The remarkable thing about the Chalmers’ shot is that it wasn’t even run that great. Not only does Collins stumble as he is about to hand off the ball, Darnell Jackson (green circle) does not set a screen to free Chalmers, as you’ll see KU do in all the other plays. Also, there was no second option as Brandon Rush (yellow circle) is merely a spectator.

The play in real-time.

What the Jayhawks had going for them on that night was the element of surprise, and it worked beautifully. Self no longer has that going for him, but he keeps going to the well. And most of the time (with a little help from the glass), KU’s miracles do come true.

About The Author

C.J. Moore is the Lead College Basketball Writer at Bleacher Report. He is a University of Kansas grad and a basketball nerd. You can follow him on Twitter @cjmoore4.


  1. [...] – Great stuff from C.J. Moore regarding McLemore’s Miracle, Mario’s Miracle and the breakdown of the 3-point play that has saved Bill Self’s butt on more than one occasion. (Need I Say Moore) [...]

  2. Kevin says:

    Great analysis. Also, in 2008 or 2007, Chalmers hit the same shot to tie up Texas in the Big 12 tournament championship.

    • C.J. Moore says:

      You are correct. Here it is:

      I thought about including that and the backdoor plays out of the same set against Mizzou in OT last year and the one against UK that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist blocked, but I figured I had included enough examples. Notice in the shot against Texas how well Julian Wright sets the pick to free Chalmers and also on the other side Darnell Jackson is trying to free Rush.

  3. jennfer says:

    Do you have a clip from the end of the MSU game? In interviews Self and Ben talked about how it didn’t go so well. I would be curious to see that one as well.

    Thanks for the analysis of the play.

    • C.J. Moore says:

      I don’t. But here’s part of my write-up after that game (

      “The Jayhawks still had a shot to tie the game in the end, and that didn’t go well. Travis Releford, who the play was obviously not meant for, ended up taking the shot. It reminded me of last year’s game at Missouri when Self, as he did Tuesday, called the Chalmers’ play and it failed miserably. Three weeks later Kansas ran the same play down 3 in the final minute of regulation against Mizzou. Self added a wrinkle that got the ball to Robinson, the screener. Robinson was fouled and his 3-point play ended up sending the game to overtime, a game Kansas won. Personally, I would like to see Self come up with a different last-second set, but he has enough options out of it, he continues to go to it. On Tuesday, the Jayhawks didn’t get the look they wanted. Down the road, they might.”

      I stand by that I would like to see Self run another set at some point just to keep the defense honest, although it does go to show you that the defense can know what’s coming but if you execute well enough, often it doesn’t matter. Also, if you have the Watch ESPN app, you could watch that replay.

  4. [...] Lawrence, KU’s chop play went to Ben McLemore, who was flaring off a screen as Johnson dribbled past Withey. This time the Cyclones took McLemore [...]