University of Kansas

KU beats Oklahoma in Big 12 opener; Hack-A-Doke strategy sends 7-footer to bench late

Dedric Lawson and Quentin Grimes on first win in conference play over Oklahoma

Kansas Jayhawks Dedric Lawson and Quentin Grimes talk about winning their season opener in Big 12 Conference play 70-63 over the Oklahoma Sooners on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.
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Kansas Jayhawks Dedric Lawson and Quentin Grimes talk about winning their season opener in Big 12 Conference play 70-63 over the Oklahoma Sooners on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas junior forward Dedric Lawson wasn’t the least bit concerned when Oklahoma men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger went to his Hack-A-Doke strategy with 4 minutes, 32 seconds left and the Jayhawks leading the Sooners, 62-53 on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

“To be honest I wasn’t, because at practice coach (Bill Self) did a drill with Doke,” Lawson said after the No. 5-ranked Jayhawks (12-1), who led by 15 points at halftime, hung on for a 70-63 victory over the No. 23-rated Sooners (11-2).

Azubuike, who missed six straight free throws in the final four minutes of a five-point loss at Oklahoma last year (when Kruger had his Sooners foul the 7-footer on purpose) misfired Wednesday following an intentional foul on Kristian Doolittle. The 7-foot junior center, who has made 11 of 32 free throws this season (.344), was taken out of the game by Self with 3:47 remaining and KU up, 62-54.

OU cut the deficit to four points with 30 seconds to play, but freshman Devon Dotson’s three free throws in four tries accounted for the 70-63 final.

Lawson spoke more about Monday’s practice drill, explaining: “Doke had to make 37 out of 50 free throws. Doke did it the first time. If he didn’t do it, he’d have had to stay in the gym until he finished. He did it the first try. So I thought he was going to be pretty comfortable at the free throw line tonight.”

There was some humor involved at the end of the free-throw shooting drill involving Azubuike, who finished with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting (0-for-1 at line) with nine rebounds in 23 minutes.

“Coach Self said, ‘Why didn’t you make 40?’ Doke said, ‘You said to make 37,’’’ Lawson, who scored 13 points on 6-of-17 shooting with 13 rebounds in 37 minutes, said with a laugh.

Self said, “Yeah probably,” when asked if he expected Kruger to have his Sooners send Azubuike to the line during crunch time for a second straight season.

“I didn’t know they would go to it that early,” Self stated. “The thing about it is, it’s kind of a screwy deal. It’s really not fair to Doke. I probably should have played him before we were in the bonus so that way they wouldn’t have done it. Then when we got in the bonus if you want to rest him, rest him. We put him in with six team fouls or five.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks about the Jayhawks first Big 12 Conference win, 70-63, over the Oklahoma Sooners on Wednesday, Jan 2. 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

“When it got to the bonus they immediately went to it (Hack-A-Doke). I wasn’t going to take him out after one miss, but when it got down under the four-minute timeout, I thought it’s time that we should probably go ahead and sub for him because I knew they’d do it again and we were still in the 1-and-1 and weren’t in the double bonus yet.”

Self said Azubuike, who has played in the last two games after missing four because of a severely sprained right foot, also was taken out of the game late “in large part because of conditioning. He’s tired. One thing very evident is with Doke and Dedric both in the game, neither was scoring in the second half. Dedric ran off six straight (points) whenever Doke was not in the game. Also it was a better matchup if Marcus (Garrett, five points, five rebounds, 28 minutes) was guarding Manek (Brady, 16 points, 11 rebounds) instead of Dedric.”

Self after a game in which KU hit 4 of 21 threes and 14 of 22 free throws (to OU’s 5 of 22 threes and 8 of 13) cited the effort of freshman guard Quentin Grimes on what he called the key play of the game.

Grimes (14 points, 6-of-11 shooting, 1 of 6 from three) committed a turnover with 2:40 left and KU up, 62-56. He dove to retrieve the ball and passed to Devon Dotson (16 points, five rebounds), who scored, was fouled and hit a free throw to give the Jayhawks a nine-point lead at 2:35.

“When Q lost the ball he makes the best play he’s made all year. Goes back and deflects the ball diving, gets it to Devon for the and-one. It was the best play of the game; best play he’s made all year,” Self said.

Lawson said the play was “a momentum changer. We had nothing going. Quentin got the steal, got us a little more cushion, a litlte more room to play defense, secure rebounds and knock down free throws.”

Grimes said he simply had to come up with the basketball after committing one of his three turnovers in 35 minutes.

“I knew I had turned the ball over. I had to dive for the ball. I passed to Devon and he made the and-one play, swung the momentum,” Grimes said.

“I know how the Big 12 is. You’ve got to do whatever you can especially at home to help the team come out with a win,” he added.

KU, which hit 41.3 percent of its shots to OU’s 40.3 percent, outrebounded the Sooners, 42-40. OU had 17 turnovers to nine assists; KU 14 turnovers, 10 assists.

The Jayhawks will travel to Iowa State on Saturday for a 4 p.m. tipoff.

ALSO: KU, the only Big 12 school with a winning record against the Sooners, improved to 148-67. KU has won 18 straight games vs. OU in Allen Fieldhouse, last falling, 80-77, on Feb. 17, 1993. … OU is 7-49 overall in KU’s tradition-rich building. KU has won six of the last seven meetings and 19 of the last 22 matchups dating to 2006 . KU is 5-5 vs. OU when both the Sooners and Jayhawks are ranked in the AP Top 25 (dating to 2002). … Kansas has won 28 consecutive conference openers dating to the 1991-92 season — 11 of those victories at Allen Fieldhouse and 17 on the road. KU’s last loss in a conference opener was 88-82 against Oklahoma on Jan. 8, 1991, at Lloyd Noble Center. KU’s last loss in a conference opener contested at home was a 73-57 decision to Colorado on Jan. 5, 1963 at Allen. … Bill Self is 20-4 all-time against Oklahoma as KU coach. Lon Kruger is 8-22 overall versus Kansas, 3-12 while at OU. … Kansas is 4-1 against AP Top 25 teams in 2018-19. Under Self, KU is 94-46 against AP-ranked opponents.

Gary Bedore covers all aspects of Kansas basketball for The Star — the current team as well as former players and coaches and recruiting. He attended KU and was born and raised in Chicago, as well as Lisle, Ill.