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Tigers move on to Elite Eight -11/23/2014, 7:43 PM

Tiger men pick up second win -11/23/2014, 7:43 PM

Tigers search for new coaches -11/23/2014, 7:43 PM

Phillipsburg drops a heartbreaker to end season -11/23/2014, 7:42 PM

KVA all-state volleyball teams -11/23/2014, 7:42 PM

Tiger women roll to second straight win -11/23/2014, 7:42 PM

Knights claim state title -11/22/2014, 4:09 PM

Tigers' Paraguay soccer connection -11/21/2014, 10:56 AM

One last go for Knights' seniors -11/21/2014, 5:00 PM

Phillipsburg one step away -11/21/2014, 10:47 AM

McPherson standout signs with FHSU -11/20/2014, 2:35 PM

Wildcats look to bounce back at Morgantown -11/20/2014, 10:29 AM

Tiger women roll to record win -11/20/2014, 10:20 AM

FHSU men pick up first win -11/20/2014, 10:20 AM

Cavs fumble chance to beat Spurs -11/20/2014, 10:20 AM

A's officially sign Butler -11/20/2014, 10:20 AM

Two Tigers named to MIAA vb team -11/19/2014, 11:13 AM

Jordy Nelson sets early tone for Packers' offense -11/19/2014, 10:05 AM

Kentucky blasts KU -11/19/2014, 10:05 AM

Defense leads Wildcat women -11/19/2014, 10:05 AM

K-State looks to run stronger -11/19/2014, 10:13 AM

No. 11 Wichita State rolls over Memphis -11/18/2014, 8:05 PM

Inman named MIAA Wrestlers of the Week -11/18/2014, 2:23 PM

Williams, Jordan among first-team all-MIAA selections for FHSU -11/18/2014, 11:16 AM

Bell, Steelers rally past Titans -11/18/2014, 10:11 AM

NFL suspends Peterson without pay -11/18/2014, 10:11 AM

'Cats knock off UMKC at Bramlage -11/18/2014, 10:10 AM

Calipari will simplify offense -11/18/2014, 10:10 AM

Hays High football earns WAC honors -11/18/2014, 10:10 AM

Wichita State defense works at protecting the basket -11/17/2014, 2:36 PM

K.C., Wichita to host NCAA's in future -11/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Harvick wins Chase -11/17/2014, 10:14 AM

FHSU women fall just short of rally -11/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Charles beats Seahawks' 'Beast' at own game -11/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Rams shock Manning, Broncos -11/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's elusiveness, style earns Chiefs' respect -11/17/2014, 10:12 AM

It's basketball time in South Dakota for WSU -11/17/2014, 10:12 AM

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Atwood 76, St. Francis 65

Dighton 62, Oberlin 47

Hillsboro 50, Goodland 47

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Minneapolis 68, Russell 35

Rock Hills 42, Natoma 37

Salina Central 62, Andover 58

Salina South 62, Sacred Heart 47

Sharon Springs 75, Leoti 38

St. John's Beloit-Tipton 57, Osborne 34

Sylvan-Lucas 61, Thunder Ridge 48

Girls

Dighton 44, Atwood 11

Dodge City 71, Hays High 28

Hesston 51, Goodland 18

Hoisington 60, Victoria 46

Hoxie 65, St. Francis 13

Lincoln 33, Lakeside 26

Minneapolis 47, Otis-Bison 24

Osborne 59, Wilson 34

Sharon Springs 63, Oberlin 42

Sylvan-Lucas 43, Natoma 41 (ot)

Tescott 41, Rock Hills 33

Trego 56, Leoti 27

Thunder Ridge 33, St. John's Beloit-Tipton 30

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SPOTLIGHT
Kruger brings OU back

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Kruger brings OU back

Published on -3/19/2014, 10:01 AM

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By CLIFF BRUNT

Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- The emcee at Oklahoma's year-end banquet, Toby Rowland, paused to recall a recent conversation with coach Lon Kruger.

The "Voice of the Sooners" asked Kruger when he'd last been assessed a technical foul. Kruger paused, then said it was back when he coached the NBA's Atlanta Hawks more than 10 years ago.

While demonstrative coaches fill the highlights and grab headlines, the 61-year-old Kruger remains in control. The only coach to take five different schools to the NCAA tournament has done it the same way each time -- by using his calm demeanor, deep basketball knowledge and knack for cultivating relationships to get the most out of his teams.

"He never yells," sophomore forward Ryan Spangler said. "He just knows how to coach people."

Kruger took Kansas State to the regional finals in 1988, Florida to the Final Four in 1994 and UNLV to the regional semis in 2007. Oklahoma went 15-16 his first year in 2011-12, then reached the NCAA tournament last season. This season, the Sooners cracked the Top 25 for the first time since 2009 and have returned to the NCAA tournament.

Oklahoma (23-9), the No. 5 seed in the West Region, opens tournament play Thursday against No. 12 seed North Dakota State (25-6) in Spokane, Wash.

Getting the team to this point might be one of Kruger's better coaching jobs. Oklahoma was picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 after losing its top three scorers from last season.

Mainstays blossomed and newcomers fit in. Guard Buddy Hield more than doubled his scoring average as a sophomore and led the team with 16.8 points per game. Clark, the only senior starter, averaged 15.3 points. Spangler, a transfer from Gonzaga, averaged 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the field. Isaiah Cousins, a sophomore, averages 10.8 points and spearheads the team's perimeter defense. Freshman point guard Jordan Woodard averages 10.3 points and 4.7 assists.

Even with the youth and new faces, the Sooners finished second in the conference with no first-team All-Big 12 players. For that, Kruger was named the league's Coach of the Year.

"I just think he got everybody to buy in, just buying in with hard work, just going hard and doing everything on the defensive end," Clark said."

Kruger said this team's success is special because the squad needed unity to reach its potential, especially given the talent level of the rest of the conference. Seven of the 10 Big 12 teams earned NCAA tournament bids.

"I think it was obvious from the start that this group was going to invest and put the time in," he said. "That's a great starting point. They really like each other. They like making plays for each other. Combine that with the investment of time, and you've got a chance to make good things happen."

Though Kruger is accomplished, the players say the interactions with him trump everything. His basketball knowledge allows him to speak quietly, yet still get his point across.

"The first time I'd seen him in practice drawing on a board -- it's crazy how smart he is," Spangler said. "That made me respect him right then."

That respect allows Kruger to speak softly.

"He's the type of guy you want to listen to," Spangler said. "You don't want to upset him or make him mad at you, so all of our team, we just listen to whatever he says. Obviously, he's right most of the time."

Kruger transfers the knowledge to results by helping the players bond.

"He gets us as a team to play together," Hield said. "I think him doing that, bringing us together, even eating together, stuff like that -- little things like that help us win."

Even with a low volume, Kruger pushes his team. Oklahoma started the season winning by posting high point totals, but Kruger knew that to compete in the Big 12, the Sooners would have to play better defense. In practice and in news conferences, the message was the same. Finally, the Sooners got it, and the wins followed. Oklahoma finished with a 12-6 record in conference play.

"He's been harping on us all season about defense, and we finally listened to him the last month of the season because he knows what he's talking about, and we really bought into what he's talking about," Spangler said.

Both at the banquet and at his media session after the NCAA tournament selections were announced, Kruger deflected credit.

"It's been a fun group," he said. "It's been fun to watch them make the progress. It's been fun to watch them, as much as anything, buy into trusting each other to take care of respective responsibilities."

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