After a month of the "bug" and some sub-par performances, Cole Aldrich's health and play are improving.
The 6-11, 245-pound junior center has come up huge the last two games,
recording double-doubles against California (10 points and 10 rebounds,
plus five blocks) on Dec. 22 and Belmont on Tuesday night (11 points,
14 rebounds, with six blocks and three steals).
Aldrich dominated the early part of the game vs. Belmont at Allen
Fieldhouse, doing his best impression of former NBA star Dikembo
Mutombo with four blocks in just over four minutes into the contest. He
had nine rebounds and five blocks in the first half, and keyed a
pivotal 8-0 run after Belmont had outscored KU 15 to 3 to take a
one-point lead (15-14) with 9:44 remaining before halftime.
After KU coach Bill Self called a 30-second timeout, Aldrich recorded a
layup, block, steal, assist and free throw to help give Kansas a 22-15
lead. Although it wasn't pretty, KU held off the Bruins and won, 81-51.
Aldrich said he really wasn't thinking of a triple-double despite his
block party in the first half.
"I knew I had quite a few blocks," he said. "I just came with the same
mindset I do every game, is try to hold the paint down with rebounds
and blocking shots. I ended up with six, which is pretty good."
While he was an imposing defensive presence, Aldrich was held to just
five field goals. He made four of his shots.
"It was a little tough," Aldrich said. "They kind of trapped the post a
little bit. I think at one point in time ... even when our bigs weren't
getting the touches, we just settled. I think we just got to continue
go at our bigs because our bigs are one of the good component to our
team. It's tough guarding Marcus (Morris), myself, Jeff (Withey) now,
Kieff (Markieff Morris) and Thomas (Robinson) in there."
Self stressed Aldrich needs to be more aggressive offensively.
"When big guys catch it six inches and dribble under the basket and fan
it out, you play Texas, you're never gong to score a basket," Self said.
Yet Self added:
"Cole had some good spark. I can be mad at Cole, but where would we be
without him? He gets 14 rebounds, the next guy gets four. At halftime,
he had nine of our 19 rebounds and he only played 15 minutes. I think
Cole could be more aggressive on one area, but he is going after the
ball and blocking shots, which is good. Cole had some good moments."
Self wasn't pleased with his team's overall performance, including poor
rebounding and defensive effort, and only getting 50 percent of the
50-50 balls. He said KU was "awful" and "so soft." The Jayhawks were
outrebounded on the offensive glass, 15 to 7, by the smaller Bruins,
and barely won the rebounding battle, 40-39.
"That just can't happen," Aldrich said.
Aldrich continued echoing Self's sentiments.
"We really didn't stop anybody," Aldrich said. "They really got
whatever they want whenever they want. ... That's one thing we got to
do is just guard hard and play with more of a chip on our shoulder and
have that mindset that our guy is not going to score."
"I could sit here all day and name different things (we need to
improve)," Aldrich added, "but as long as we rebound and move the ball,
just go after the ball really hard. We had a few loose balls today that
we should have had. We got to get those 50-50 balls, and I think once
we do that, we can continue to get better. ... We really played hard
last year, and I think we're going to continue that mold and play that
way again this year."
At least one positive came out of the Belmont game: Aldrich is finally
getting better after a month of illness. The Minnesota native admitted
it's been a rough period as he's "continued to fight through it."
"It's tough when you're not feeling that well," Aldrich said. "I
personally wasn't playing that great, at least in my mind. I knew there
were so many different things I could help the team win and just my
health was holding me back a little bit from doing that."
Aldrich is now trying to put those health woes behind. And that could
be a nightmare to future opponents like Temple, Tennessee, and the Big
Belmont head coach Rick Byrd certainly had no answers for Aldrich
"At the mid-major level, our big guys are usually able to score and we
generally try to go to them. That was taken away tonight by Cole
Aldrich," Byrd said. "He is strong, big and long. ... He is a really
good player and not just a big guy.
"He was my biggest concern coming into the game. I thought when anybody
else was in the game we at least had a chance to get some angles and
scores. You just can't move Aldrich where you want to."
Belmont senior forward Keaton Belcher agreed.
"It was tough," Belcher said. "I think it said on the scouting report
that he has a seven-foot, four-inch wing span. He is tough to shoot
over and he blocked quite a few shots. ... It definitely took a big
part of our offense away because we have a few good post players
ourselves that weren't able to get flowing offensively. We had to rely
on the three-pointer more than we usually do. It makes you not want to
drive into him because you are either going to miss or he is going to
Aldrich is now looking to block some more shots against Temple on
"We got a really good Temple team coming up here in Philly," Aldrich
said. "It's going to be a fun game. I'm really excited."
Aldrich Ready to Deal Some Pain on Saturday
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