Aldrich Helps Beat Down Huskies, 73-54

KANSAS CITY, Mo.— In a battle of two of the nation's best big men, KU's Cole Aldrich more than held his own against Washington's Jon Brockman— the country's leading returning rebounder and the Pac-10's active career scoring leader.

Cole Aldrich set the tone for the game in the first half with eight points, five rebounds, four blocks, two assists and one steal as KU led 32-22 at halftime in the semifinals of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic.

He finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and a career-high six blocks to propel KU (3-0) to a 73-54 victory over the Huskies (2-2) at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Monday night.

Brockman, meanwhile, was a beast on the boards (game-high 18 rebounds), but came up scoreless in the second half after seven first-half points. KU’s 2-3 zone limited Brockman’s touches, who attempted just two shots the second half and went 2 of 9 for the game. Aldrich’s length at 6-11 also bothered the 6-7 star forward.

The Jayhawks kept on coming after halftime behind strong play from sophomore Sherron Collins (game-high 18 points), freshmen Marcus Morris (13 points) and Tyshawn Taylor (10 points), and sophomore Brady Morningstar (three points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals).

KU broke open a 37-28 game in the second half with a 12-0 run. And this game was basically over.

KU cruised to the victory and will next play Syracuse in the CBE Classic finals Tuesday at 9:15 p.m. (CST) on ESPN2. The Orangemen beat Florida in the early semifinal game, 89-83.

Aldrich (6-12 FG) had his best game of his career after his coming-out party against North Carolina in the Final Four last April.

“I thought he was great,” said KU coach Bill Self. “He missed two or three bunnies that he would normally make. The thing that I thought was really impressive about him was he played defense without fouling. The zone protected him, but he challenged shots.”

KU played primarily zone after Collins picked up his second foul midway through the first half. While the Jayhawks’ uncustomary zone defense was a hot topic in postgame interviews, Aldrich was the center of attention.

“He showed a little bit of everything,” Self said. “He showed range, he showed one on one defense, he blocked shots from the weak side. He rebounded in traffic. ... He passed out of traps. He did a lot of things for a young guy tonight.”

Aldrich indeed came up big playing against Brockman, who entered the game averaging 20.3 points per game. The sophomore center compared Brockman to North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough for his relentless effort on the boards.

“Brockman showed he’s a beast on the glass,” Aldrich said. “We were fortunate to play really good defense on him and hold him to only seven points, which is not going to happen very often throughout this year.”

Aldrich was pleased with his performance and how KU’s progressing.

“I’m definitely starting to feel a lot more comfortable,” he said. “I missed some easy shots, but it happens. (I’m) excited to get out there and play. We’re starting to play well. We’re not quite good yet, but we’re improving.”

Washington was led by guard Isaiah Thomas with 17 points. KU’s zone defense limited the Huskies to just 29.2 percent shooting, while the Jayhawks shot an impressive 50 percent, although just 2 of 9 from three-point range.

While Aldrich and Collins stole the show (Self said he “thought our two returning guys totally controlled the game”) — the KU coach called Morningstar the “unsung hero.”

“I thought he was terrific,” Self said. “He played the back line of the zone. He did the best job of our coverage there. He blocked guys out. ... He did a great job of feeding the post to give us easy baskets.”

Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar praised the Jayhawks’ strong play. Romar said KU’s defense gave the Huskies “nothing easy.’

“Kansas played a great game,” Romar said. “We give them a lot of credit. They executed on both ends of the court at a very high level.”

“They exposed us as a team of not making the extra pass,” he added. “They played great defense against us.”

And nobody was better than Aldrich. Brockman was obviously impressed, and gave KU’s big fella some encouraging advice after the game.

“(He said), ‘Just keep working hard, just keep winning,” Aldrich said. “He’s a great guy. He gives it his all.”

But on this night, Aldrich and KU ruled supreme. Top Stories