NORMAN, Okla. -- Recognized for the job he's done in leading the University of Oklahoma men's basketball team to a 23-8 overall record and a second-place finish in the conference, Lon Kruger was named the 2014 AP Big 12 Coach of the Year on Monday.
Kruger, in his third season with the Sooners, took an OU team that lost 68 percent of its scoring from last season's 20-12 squad and directed it to a 12-6 Big 12 mark. The Sooners were picked in a tie for fifth in the Big 12's preseason coaches poll.
OU is ranked No. 17 this week's AP Top 25 Poll and No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches version, as well as No. 20 in the NCAA RPI. The Sooners' No. 17 AP ranking is their highest since Nov. 17, 2009.
"This award is very obviously a reflection of how well our guys have played, the progress they've made and the strong finish they had to the regular season," said Kruger, who is 58-36 at OU. "Now the challenge is to continue to get better and finish strong in the postseason."
Oklahoma’s 23 regular season wins are tied for its fourth most in the 18-year history of the Big 12. OU also had 23 wins heading into the league championship in 2000-01 and 2004-05. The only seasons that the Sooners racked up more regular season wins in the Big 12 era were 1999-00 (24), 2001-02 (24) and 2008-09 (27).
At 9-5, Oklahoma has the best record away from home of any Big 12 team this season. The Sooners went 5-4 in Big 12 road play (tied with Kansas for the best such mark) after going a combined 5-21 the previous three years.
The AP's Big 12 player awards were also announced Monday. OU's Buddy Hield was a second-team all-conference selection, while Cameron Clark and Ryan Spangler were honorable mention picks.
OU is the No. 2 seed in this week's Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship to be played inside Kansas City's Sprint Center. The Sooners will play a quarterfinals game against No. 7 seed Baylor or No. 10 seed TCU on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT. If OU wins it will play Friday at 8:30 in the semifinals. Saturday's championship game will start at 8 p.m.