Norman, Okla. — The hack-a-Udoka-Azubuike strategy implemented by Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger and his Sooners in the final minutes of Tuesday night’s game against Kansas worked like a charm in an 85-80 victory for OU at Lloyd Noble Center.
The crunch-time shift away from the norm took away from the Jayhawks’ flow and productivity on the offensive end of the floor, as OU turned a three-point hole into a five-point win.
Azubuike missed all six of his free-throw attempts between the 3:37 and 1:56 marks as the Sooners fouled the 7-footer every trip down the floor, aiming to put Azubuike, who entered the game as a 41-percent foul shooter at the line. The sophomore big went 1-for-8 in the game and scored nine points.
A Lagerald Vick follow jam of a missed floater by Devonte’ Graham with 2:22 to play made it an 80-77 Kansas lead, but the damage was done and the Sooners closed the night scoring eight unanswered points.
OU star freshman point guard Trae Young put up 26 points on 7-for-9 shooting and dished 9 assists in his first matchup with Kansas (16-4 overall, 6-2 Big 12).
Jayhawks senior Svi Mykhailiuk led his team with 24 points, making 6 of his 13 3-pointers.
View a gallery of images from Tuesday night's game between the Jayhawks and Sooners in Norman, Oklahoma.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: The offense fell off a cliff in the game’s final minutes.
With no rhythm or confidence to be found in wake of the let’s-foul-Azubuike strategy, Kansas missed each of its four field goal attempts in the final 1:20.
Three-pointers by Christian James and Brady Manek in the final 1:09 assured Oklahoma (15-4 overall, 5-3 Big 12) of a victory.
• Offensive highlight: As sophomore center Azubuike became the focal point of the KU offense out of the halftime break, the 7-footer made sure to let the OU frontcourt know his intentions of dominating — at least for the first few minutes — in the second half.
After Graham drove into the paint to draw Oklahoma’s defense, the senior point guard dished to Azubuike, who had no interest in letting the presence of Sooners big Khadeem Lattin stopping him from trying to tear down the rim.
Azubuike exploded off the floor, extended the ball higher than Lattin could reach and hammered a one-handed jam over and through his defender for a savage finish.
The big man’s big start to the second half — four baskets in a two-minute stretch after going scoreless in the first half — helped Kansas build an eight-point lead after trailing by as many as 10 points before intermission.
• Defensive highlight: With the Sooners in position to apply some extra padding to their halftime lead, freshman phenom Young was denied the chance to send OU to the locker room on a high note.
With 5.5 seconds remaining and the length of the floor in front of him, Young took an in-bound pass and sped off with a buzzer-beating layup on his mind.
When he reached the paint, though, Mitch Lightfoot met the potential All-American in the air to swat Young’s shot out of bounds.
OU got no last-second bucket to close the half and Young didn’t see the ball go through the net on a shot attempt for the first time (3-for-4, 8 points, six assists in the first 20 minutes).
• Key stat: Points off turnovers. Few things come in as handy in a hostile environment as home team mistakes that set up easy scores.
Kansas often cashed in on those opportunities Tuesday night and each time it did it seemed to settle the visitors down and/or provide a nice offensive spark against high-scoring OU.
In all, Oklahoma gave the ball away 16 times, and Kansas benefited to the tune of 22 points, winning that hustle-point category on the road by 13.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will be back in Lawrence on Saturday for the Big 12/SEC Challenge and a meeting with Texas A & M (3:30 p.m., ESPN).