Jayhawks Ready to Invade AFH West

KU big man Cole Aldrich, fresh off a dominant performance vs. Missouri on Wednesday, might just need his 'A' game again Saturday, and the Jayhawks square off with the Wildcats in Manhattan.

   Cole Aldrich is playing his best basketball of the season as No. 2 Kansas prepares to play at Kansas State, which already has knocked off a No. 1.
   The Jayhawks have been on a pretty good roll since they coughed up the top ranking with a 76-68 loss at Tennessee on Jan. 10. They've won five in a row, including an 84-65 rout of Border Way rival Missouri on Big Monday.
   Aldrich flirted with a triple-double against the Tigers, finishing with 12 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks.
   "Cole was great," said Kansas coach Bill Self.
   Said Missouri forward Justin Safford: "His presence kind of altered guys' shots, and guys were hesitant to go into the lane."
   Aldrich's performance came two days after he had 19 points and 11 rebounds at Iowa State, which, by his own admission, felt like a welcome-back moment after some (relative) struggles this season.
   But neither Aldrich nor the Jayhawks (19-1, 5-0) can rest for too long in the Big 12. Kansas has to recharge quickly for Saturday's game against the Wildcats. Kansas State beat then-No. 1 Texas 71-62 in Manhattan on Jan. 18.
   The Wildcats enter the week ranked No. 11 and feature one of the top backcourts in the Big 12 with Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, though both have been slumping recently with their outside shots. The Jayhawks certainly play the kind of defense to stifle that pair -- KU allows opponents to shoot only 35.9 percent overall and 31.6 percent from behind the arc.
   KU needs to establish its interior dominance with Aldrich and red-hot Marcus Morris (among others on the deep Kansas roster).
   "Tough game. Hard game," Morris said of K-State matchup. "It will be a dogfight."
   Kansas is 24-2 against Kansas State in the Big 12 era.
   KANSAS 84, MISSOURI 65: The Tigers hung around for several minutes, but then Kansas hit the accelerator and used its superior inside game to take control. The Jayhawks took a 50-30 edge into the halftime break when Brady Morningstar's 3-point heave at the buzzer went off the backboard and around the rim before falling.
   KU out-rebounded Missouri by 22 -- and that was just in the first half. The final advantage was 56-28, which more than offset the 23 turnovers the Jayhawks committed against the Tigers' press.
   Kansas showed off its enviable depth, with six players scoring at least nine points ... and none was named Sherron Collins. The star guard had a rare off night with 2-of-11 shooting and six points, but the Jayhawks didn't need his scoring as they easily ran their home winning streak to 54 games.

   --The future intentions of G Tyshawn Taylor became a hot-button issue as the sophomore guard was removed from Kansas' starting lineup and briefly posted an item on his Facebook account implying a possible transfer. Entering Big 12 play, Taylor said he wasn't aware of his role on the team. He logged just 13 minutes in a Jan. 23 win at Iowa State but scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds.
   --After getting burned for 42 points by Iowa State F Craig Brackins in last year's matchup in Hilton Coliseum, Kansas limited the junior to just 13 points and one rebound on Jan. 23. Credit F Marcus Morris for much of the defensive work. Morris later shared some of the good-natured banter he exchanged with the ISU star.
   ON THE SPOT: Can F Marcus Morris stay hot? The sophomore has been sizzling since Big 12 play started, averaging 18.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He is shooting 65.5 percent in five conference games and has shot at least 50 percent in 11 of the last 13 games. He and Cole Aldrich and twin Markieff Morris will be in for a rugged game Saturday at Kansas State, which out-rebounded Texas by nine on Jan. 18.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "We played really well (at Iowa State). We played out of foul problems. We had a new guy (F Jeff Withey) jump on the scene I never would have given a chance if we hadn't had foul problems." -- Kansas coach Bill Self.

   SEASON RECAP: Questions have lingered about chemistry within the Kansas roster throughout the season, but the Jayhawks played well in wins against Baylor and Iowa State. Kansas needed a sound effort to turn back the hot-shooting Bears, who ended a 91-game string by KU for holding opponents to worse than 50 percent shooting. G Sherron Collins took over the game late and remains a steady constant, while F Marcus Morris continues to exert himself as one of the most improved players in the Big 12.
   PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Marcus Morris, C Cole Aldrich, G Xavier Henry, G Brady Morningstar, G Sherron Collins. Key Subs -- G Tyshawn Taylor, F Markieff Morris, G Tyrel Reed, F Thomas Robinson.
   Kansas 89, Texas Tech 63
   Kansas 81, Baylor 75
   Kansas 84, Iowa State 61
   Kansas 84, Missouri 65
   at Kansas State, Saturday, Jan. 30
   at Colorado, Wednesday, Feb. 3
   vs. Nebraska, Saturday, Feb. 6
   at Texas, Monday, Feb. 8
   IN FOCUS: After Missouri, the Jayhawks' other arch-rival, Kansas State, looms, though Kansas has won 25 of its last 26 games in Manhattan. The Wildcats' recent home win against No. 1 Texas is proof they can pose trouble for a highly ranked opponent.
   --Junior C Cole Aldrich had 16 rebounds against Missouri on Monday, giving him 711 for his career. He became the 15th player in Kansas history to reach the 700 milestone for rebounding.
   --Junior G Tyrel Reed came off the bench to match his career scoring high with 14 points in 19 minutes against Missouri. He poured in all four of his 3-point attempts and was 5 of 6 from the field.
   --G C.J. Henry, who missed the game at Iowa State on Jan. 23 after suffering a severely bruised tailbone in a hard fall on his back in practice, did not play against Missouri on Monday. Kansas coach Bill Self said "we're nervous he may be out an extended period." Henry has averaged 3.6 points in 11 appearances this season.

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