Hack-a-Doke: Kansas' Udoka Azubuike's Free Throw Struggles

Posted at 9:47 PM, Jan 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-21 22:47:16-05

The Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball team defeated Baylor on Saturday 70-67. KU let a big 13-point lead slip away in the second half due in part to missed free throws. 

Freshman center Udoka Azubuike had 14 points and 7 rebounds against the Bears. But, he also shot a disappointing 4-of-11 (36.3%) from the free throw line. He wasn't the only Jayhawk to struggle at the charity stripe. But his misses had the biggest impact.

"That was huge," Senior guard Devonte' Graham said referring to their quick 16-3 start at the beginning of the game. "If we didn't start out like that, we might be talking about a different outcome. And also, if we would've made free throws, we would've been in a little bit of a better predicament too."

Hearing Devonte's statement by itself would not raise eyebrows. However, it was a pause midway through the statement, then his subsequent stare down of Udoka during the post game press conference that spoke volumes to some. Graham is often known as a jokester. However, Udoka looked visibly uncomfortable during the stare down and even slightly annoyed.

Udoka was asked by reporters if Devonte's stare down bothered him.

"Not really," Udoka said. "I [gotta] just keep working at least everyday in the gym. I mean, I'm not gonna lose faith. I'm not just gonna lose hope. I'm gonna keep working and hopefully, it's gonna come."

Kansas as a whole shot 21-of-34 (61.8%) from the free throw line against Baylor. Only three other people had free throw opportunities: Devonte' Graham (7-8), Malik Newman (7-7) and Marcus Garrett (3-8). The Jayhawks as a team have shot 71% this season. However, Udoka has been far behind the team average shooting 41.1% this season.

"I mean, I don't know [what the problem is]," Udoka said. "[It's] probably the big hands, the bigger hands you know. [Maybe] concentration or what not. I really don't know. I shoot free throws every time, like every practice and all that."

Opposing teams like Baylor are starting to realize Udoka's inability to hit free throws. And, similar to a Hack-a-Shaq strategy where NBA teams used to intentionally foul NBA Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O'Neal to keep him from scoring, it's now becoming Hack-a-Doke.

"Yeah, I think everybody would rather [Udoka] shoot two free throws then dunk," Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew said. "I mean, we had five fouls, four fouls, four fouls, four fouls. We didn't have enough guys to try foul him every time he catches it."