NORMAN, OK. (KWCH) -- You can point to many reasons why the Jayhawks lost to the Sooners 85-80 Tuesday night, but Bill Self wants you to point to him.
Self took some heat for leaving Udoka Azubuike in the game late in the second half at Oklahoma, even after realizing the Sooners were playing "poke-a-Doke" and sending him to the free-throw line intentionally. He said he trusted his best post-player to get the job done.
"Hopefully it doesn't hurt him moving forward. I've always been a big believer that you send a bad message to someone that you don't have confidence in them, especially when you know he's going to have to play every big minute this season against good competition," he said.
This is a 7-foot-tall man who is shooting 77.4 from the field and is collecting 7.7 rebounds per game.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger knew where he wasn't shooting 77.4 percent: from the free-throw line. In fact, he's only making 38 percent of his shots. Something that became very evident late in Tuesday's game.
Kruger sent Matt Freeman in the game with 3:46 left with the simple goal to foul Azubuike. He was 1-7 from the line, providing a possession for the Sooners each time. Freeman fouled out in only two minutes.
Self had another option in those final minutes. Mitch Lightfoot sat on the bench, with only two personal fouls to his name. Although he is an inferior physical presence and defender, Lightfoot is an 82.4 percent free-throw shooter and would eliminate Kruger's late-game plan.
The loss dropped Kansas to 6-2 in the conference, and bumped Oklahoma to 5-3. The Jayhawks maintain a one-game lead for first place, heading into Monday night's Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan.