Aldrich humbly credited his teammates afterwards.
“The seniors have just done it all for us young guys,” he said. “They’ve shown us the way. It’s just great to be part of this team.”
Junior teammate Mario Chalmers said Aldrich came to play.
“I think he just wanted it,” Chalmers said. “I think it was the best game he’s had all year. He is out there doing everything we need him to do.”
Aldrich said he was just playing in his role against ‘Carolina.
“When a few guys got in foul trouble (Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson), I just had to come in and play some defense,” he said. “I got some good help with Shady and Sasha and Darnell trapping in the post. ... I got the opportunity and I took it. I was definitely tired at one point. I was like, ‘I gotta run back on defense now.’ It was great to have that feeling, though, because you know you’re in the game and you’re having fun. When I had that one block when Sherron (Collins) got beat, I kind of looked up in the crowd and (went), ‘That was nice.’’”
“Hopefully I get the opportunity on Monday to do the same thing,” Aldrich added.
It seems Aldrich has developed his own nickname.
“Some of the buddies on the team call me flyswatter,” he said. “I just try to go after every rebound and block every shot.”
Aldrich’s parents, Kathleen and Walt, attended the game.
“I haven’t seen (them) yet,” he said. “They’re definitely proud. I just came out and gave it my all. I said, ‘This could be our last game this year,’ and we really didn’t want that to happen. That’s really all my dad has taught me was just to go out and put in your hard work and it will definitely pay off.”
Self praised Aldrich’s performance.
“I didn’t expect him to play that much,” Self said. “I didn’t expect Darnell and Sasha to get two fouls right off the bat. But it’s probably a good thing that things played out the way they did because Cole was unbelievable. He was as good an inside performer as we had tonight. ... The one thing that Cole did, playing out of foul trouble, defended Tyler well. (He) didn’t stop him, maybe slowed him down a little bit. (Aldrich) can really rebound the ball. He got rebounds in traffic with two hands, which I thought was very impressive.”
THIS ONE’S FOR YOU, ROD
Kansas dedicated the North Carolina victory to senior Rod Stewart, who fractured his right knee cap in practice on Friday. Stewart, who watched the game from behind the KU bench, will have surgery on Wednesday.
“They all told me it was for me,” he said. “That means a lot.”
The team is rallying around their injured teammate, who said he’ll be ready to play again in four months.
“They are using it as motivation and every time they came to the bench, they would tell me to keep my head up,” Stewart said. “It is all about the team. I don’t know if my knee really helped motivate us but I hope it did and it looked like it did. Whatever works to win out there.”
He added it was tough to watch the game, but elated the Jayhawks advanced to the championship game.
“It was hard to just be there watching my team,” Stewart said. “I was in pain in the second half but I wanted to be here and watch the guys. Some of the pain was just having to sit and watch and not being able to play. We got the win, so that’s all that really matters to me. It took the pain away.”
This has been a rough season for Stewart. His brother Allen was murdered in February. He also lost some friends this past year.
“I feel like it can be a great book someday, all the stuff I’ve been through,” Stewart said. “Just with family, my brother passing, friends (dying). It’s been a lot of ups and downs, but in the end, it made me tougher. This is what I came to KU for to experience (all this). If we win the whole thing, it’s definitely a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders with everything I’ve been through in my life.”
Stewart said he cried when the fans chanted his name with about 30 seconds left in the game.
“I appreciate them doing that and I have so much respect for the fans,” Stewart said with a smile. “For them to show their love like that really touched my heart.”
Stewart’s dad, Bull, attended the game and sat across from the KU bench. His twin brother, Lodrick, did not make it. Stewart got 54 text messages after the game from well-wishers.
“It’s easy to take the injury with all the fans and people supporting me,” Stewart said. “I just want to dedicate the game to (Allen). I don’t even know how to feel. It’s crazy. It definitely feels good.”
A PROUD FAMILY
Junior swingman Brandon Rush led all scorers with 25 points. He looked up in the crowd at one point and smiled at his mother and grandmother. He was thrilled to beat ‘Carolina and advance to the title game.
“It definitely means the world to me,” Rush said. “This is one of my goals since I’ve been back at Kansas, during my whole rehabbing. I was looking at my mama ‘cause I think she was so proud of me. She was just smiling back at me. Her and my grandma.”
“WE REPRESENT KANSAS”
Jackson said the team was especially hyped up to play the favored Tar Heels.
“Before we even thought we were going to play North Carolina, Russell (Robinson) told me one day they showed a highlight of North Carolina,” Jackson said. “He said. ‘I want to play North Carolina.’ We got the opportunity to do that. I know there’s a lot of people out there that were doubting we could beat them. They’re just some guys in a North Carolina jersey. And we’re the same. We represent Kansas and they represent North Carolina. We showed the right moxie and sportsmanship to play as a team and we won the game.”
CRIMSON AND BLUE
KU fans outnumbered the Tar Heels’ faithful. With KU up 15-8 and UNC coach Roy Williams on his feet, some Jayhawks’ fans shouted, “Sit down Roy.” One KU fan proudly held up a sign during the game: “Hey Roy, You’re Not In North Carolina Anymore.”
KU is now 36-3, its most wins in school history...Kansas had nine blocked shots, tying the NCAA tournament record for a semifinal (Kansas vs. Duke in 1988 and Maryland vs. Kansas in 2002). Aldrich and Darrell Arthur each had four blocks, trying for third most by individual players in a semifinal game...Self is now 21-9 in his career in the NCAA tournament...Kansas advanced to the NCAA championship game for the eighth time in school history and for the first time since 2003...KU’s 18-point victory margin was the largest by a North Carolina opponent this season...Kansas’ +9 rebounding margin (42-33) was the best by any North Carolina opponent in 2007-08...UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough had seven rebounds, setting a school record with 399 rebounds this season. The old mark was 397 set by Sean May in 2004-05. Hansbrough’s 882 points this season were the second most in UNC history (Lennie Rosenbluth in 1956-57). His 304 free throws in 2007-08 set an ACC record.