Lon Kruger deflects questions on ‘Hack-a-Dok’ strategy


Kansas players huddle around Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) before a one-and-one during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas players huddle around Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) before a one-and-one during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

NORMAN, Okla. — Bill Self has made it clear he won’t apologize for wins.

A one-point squeaker over Kansas State in Allen Fieldhouse? Not a chance. A down-to-the-wire finish over lowly Iowa State? That was just as big.

So after a game in which the KU coach admitted he didn’t make the best decision — to win an individual game, at least — it was interesting to hear his coaching counterpart pull back from a true defense off the method that won his team the game.

The first time OU coach Lon Kruger addressed his strategy to intentionally foul KU’s Udoka Azubuike, a poor free throw shooter, was in his opening statement. After speaking about how OU built a lead and KU subsequently claimed a double-digit advantage, Kruger described the second half by simply saying, 'We got back into that a little bit."

The first question was asked…

Question: "Lon, talk about the decision to foul Azubuike. That seemed to give you a lot of possessions in a row--"

Kruger: "Well, Kansas is the best at scoring late, you know, late game situations. So, it worked out fine, but more importantly, our guys made shots on the other end. The shot Christian made, Brady made and I thought Trae was fantastic all night long. So proud of those guys."

He was asked again…

Question: "Have you ever done that before in your career? The intentional fouling there on Azubuike."

Kruger: "That happens from time to time. Uh. Yeah."

And then a third time...

Question: "Lon, they were so good, Kansas was so good at closing out games over the last five games. Did you feel you had to throw some kind of wrinkle into the strategy with fouling Azubuike?"

Kruger: "Well Kansas is great in late game situations. So again — some big rebounds there as well and a couple stops as well. And again, made shots at the other end. So, yeah, fine line."

Kruger never addressed the strategy after that.

In fact, the only time Kruger even mentioned the 7-foot, 280-pound big man by name was in an unrelated answer.

“Azubuike is terrific inside,” Kruger said.

So then the question was posed to the player two seats to his left.

After talking about his competitiveness earlier in the press conference, and saying he came into the game expecting to win, Young was asked if he’d rather be in a position to guard Kansas straight up late in games or if he was OK with the strategy.

“I’d rather be up by 20,” Young joked. “I’m not that competitive where I’d want it to be a close game.

“No, I’m super competitive. I’m super competitive. But if it’s a close game, I mean, I want to compete to get a stop or get a bucket, so I’m super competitive.”


Suzi Marshall 12 months ago

The premise of the article is crazy immature. The objective is to win. The strategic means to win is to employ techniques that attack your opponents weakness and avoid their strengths. Kruger did both late in the game by putting Dok on the line, which is the glaring Kansas weakness, thereby not allowing the Kansas offense to operate to score late points, which is a Kansas strength.

Eric Eakins 12 months ago

I'm not sure how he deflected the question. He acknowledge he did it. He just didn't dump all over Dok or KU in saying he did it. It was part of the strategy and other things came into play as well. I have no problem, as Suzi says, with finding a teams weakness and exploiting it. I am mystified why our coach didn't adjust. He says because he wanted to show confidence in Dok. Not sure that worked out to well. It just laid a blueprint for other teams and had to be discouraging to Dok and everyone else who helped build the lead we had. I have confidence Self will adjust though and be ready for the next game and this scenario. I do believe we will be hanging #14 up soon but it isn't a given and the boys have got to want it. RCJH

Joe Black 12 months ago

It was Bush league play. Teach your guys to play quality defense and win the way the game is supposed to be played. Most of the fouls were away from the ball and had nothing to do with the play or play on the ball. The refs just needed enough balls to call one of them an intentional foul and the "strategy" would have changed. I've been a Kruger fan since he played at KSU and I've followed his career as a coach and I've never seen anything like that from him before. Very disappointed with him at this point. There is nothing saying that OU wouldn't have won the game anyway but have some confidence in your guys ability to step up to a challenge. Kruger did not show that last night. On a side note, the nine points that OU scored prior to the last two late 3 pointers came from the foul line. They actually kept in the game by having a foul called every time they drove to the basket from the seven minute mark to the end.

Eric Eakins 12 months ago

Joe, first, just trying to understand your point, not pushing on you (hard to hear tone in internet comments). Do you not agree with fouling at the end of the game to get back into a game? In this case OU started fouling earlier than most teams but that was the strategy. Often times on an inbound pass with very little time left a player away from the ball will be fouled to save the time. I often think teams start fouling way to late in games to try and get more possessions. But as a strategy, fouling to gain possession is what OU was doing and if they hadn't started when they did, KU might have held on for the win. All Self had to do was trade Dok out on offense versus defensive possessions as many teams do with their bad free throw shooters. I guess I don't see the problem. I'll bet Kruger was as surprised as the rest of us when it didn't happen. Just curious why you elevate this to "Bush league"? I think the last couple times Self stuck Dok way over in the corner was in hoping if they chose to foul it would be called an intentional foul but they were smart enough not to do it.

Jim Chastain 12 months ago

This kind of move is somewhat like going negative in political advertising. You do what it takes to win even if it makes you feel a little uncomfortable. Kruger did what it took to win and everybody understands that. It's part of the game. Self understands that. The players understand that. But he doesn't want to talk about it in such an open and direct way that it takes over the whole conversation.

This played a role in the outcome but we would all be remiss in thinking it's the only story. They hit some big shots. We didn't in the end. They tried to give us some opportunities that we didn't take advantage of. Should Self have taken him out? Sure. I would agree with that. But he didn't. He played the wrong strategy in the short term but who knows if this might have some positives in the longer term.

Craig Carson 12 months ago

They didnt give us a shot to hit any shots cause they kept fouling Dok

Bradley Sitz 12 months ago

This coaching decision ranks right up there with leaving Elijah Johnson in the game after three consecutive turnovers in the last three minutes of the Michigan game and blowing a 12 point lead. And, of course the rattled player, a 72% free throw player, missed the front end of what would have been a game winning free throw. I can only think that Coach felt that Elijah had earned to be in at the close, because of his heroics in Ames. The concern should be that Dok is not KU's only horrible free throw shooter. The only positive is that only Newman and Graham are making any effort to get to the line. They are both shooting FTs at better than 85%. In 676 of 800 possible minutes, Svi has only shot 26 FTs (.731%). Talk about a lack of aggression! Vick 29 attempts in 658 minutes , horrible .655%. Garrett has played 422 minutes and attempted 25 FTs, at a Dok level .480%. So, with Lightfoot shooting FTs at better than 82%, why was he not on the floor? And, Sam Cunliffe, an excellent FT shooter, is no where to be found. Why?

Craig Carson 12 months ago

i think time they play a close game Self will make sure to not leave him in

Danny Hernandez 12 months ago

bush league play by the former ksu player/coach but if that's the only way you can beat Kansas at your place, go ahead! Payback in Lawrence though, count on it

Rick Meyer 12 months ago

Face it Danny ... Kruger outcoached Bill in the final 5 minutes of this game. Everyone in the gym and across the nation watching on television knew what was going on. Bill made the wrong decision leaving Dok out there. Period. All within the confines of the rules, Kruger's method was actually genius. The bigger problem here is the lack of improvement in Dok and 'bigs' overall. Without a 'bigs' coach on the staff, we'll be in trouble with ANY big man that needs developement.

Gerry Butler 12 months ago

It's not bush league when it's within the rules. - -If people want this to stop then the rule has to be changed back - intentional 2 shots and the ball out of bounds. - bottom line is simple - -if Self would of took him out - -replaced him with Mitch or Cunliffe we wouldn't of had this situation. - -Bill's refusal to take him out is the real problem - -Lightfoot shoots 82% from the line and he sits - that is just total BS

David Morrison 12 months ago

Hoping an absolutely terrible free throw shooter will somehow correct his form and miraculously hit them in a clutch situation is irresponsible decision making by coach Self. I'm disappointed.... but not nearly as much as his players surely are. Not a Hall of Fame decision, IMHO.

Robert Brock 12 months ago

OU exploited a major KU weakness. It worked.

Message to Udoka Azubuike - learn the fundamentals of free throw shooting.

Layne Pierce 12 months ago

Love it or hate it, we're going to see other teams do it, so Coach Self, Dok's confidence or not, needs to substitute offensive/defensive as a previous person suggested.

The plain and simple fact is that is Dok makes even one 3 of his free throws, we probably win.

I do think that there could be an intentional foul situation, but how often do people foul at the end of a game anyway,and I have yet to see intentional foul called. One does wonder about calling fouls that are away from the ball. What should be the rule, is that the fouled team should have the option of just taking the ball out. International rules.


Doug Clark 12 months ago

It's amazing to me that they didn't try to work on his form before now, his release is all wrong and no matter how much he practices free throws, if he shoots with the same form he is now he will never make a higher percentage. People talked about Lonzo Balls form but he wasn't this bad, Udoka brings the ball across his face and his elbow is way out there, how in the hell can a hall of fame coach not do something to fix this. They should make him shoot with one hand with the ball by his shoulder and his elbow tight to his body and then shoot it and follow through, he has got to change or his muscle memory will be even harder to change later, come on.

Ulf Becker 12 months ago

I'm a bit flabbergasted that it took this long for the opposing coach to adopt the Poke-a-Dok strategy late in the game. We've had plenty of other close games where this would have been an effective strategy. Have college coaches forgotten about Shaq already?

Dale Stringer 12 months ago

I remember a game where KU used the same strategy to come from behind and win. The only difference was that the other team was full of sub-par free throw shooters so it really didn't matter who we fouled. We came back and tied the game and then went on to win in overtime. That was back in 08 and the other team was Memphis.

Jim Stauffer 12 months ago

It is obvious the entire OU contingent feels they could or would be shamed if they just came out and admitted this is what we needed to do to win. I wonder if Self has said anything to Kruger about it like he did to Billy Gillespie when he did it at A&M.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.