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2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Aldrich still awestruck after gem

Freshman 'best player in the game' for stretch, coach says

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Full video coverage of the Kansas Jayhawks in the 2008 NCAA Tournament

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2008 NCAA Tournament

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— Cole Aldrich still might not fully understand just what he did.

Here's the 6-foot-11 mound of a freshman forward. He just scored eight points and grabbed seven pivotal rebounds in Kansas University's 84-66 national semifinal victory over North Carolina on Saturday night. His teammates gave him the hero's welcome into the locker room, full of hoots, hollers and high fives. He even went to the interview podium with limelight regulars Brandon Rush and Darnell Jackson.

But still, same old Aldrich, seeming in awe of everything.

"It was a blast," he gushed about piecing together much of his memorable night against college basketball's best player, UNC's Tyler Hansbrough. "I don't even know what to say, because he's such a great player, and just being able to be on the same court, in the Final Four, in San Antonio, playing against him, it's a huge honor."

Maybe, at some point, it'll set in. For those who watched it, though, it's hard to deny Aldrich definitely had the upper hand in that matchup for the bulk of his 13 first-half minutes.

"I thought Cole was the best player in the game for a stretch in the first half," KU coach Bill Self said. "He may have won the game for us as much as anybody because he bought us so many great minutes."

OK, quick rewind.

Just over four minutes into the game, senior Sasha Kaun, KU's top post performer so far in the postseason, picked up his second personal foul. Instead of going small, Self turned to Aldrich, KU ahead 11-6 at the time.

Less than 10 minutes later, the Jayhawks were ahead 40-12, Aldrich having played a huge role in that.

His board work drew the ravest of reviews. His first dent in that stat column came three minutes into his session on the floor. He followed a Sherron Collins miss with a gentle tip-in, making it a 19-10 game.

Over the next several minutes, he blocked three shots, bringing his season total to 33, scored a couple more buckets and literally ripped a rebound away from Hansbrough.

"I wasn't gonna let it go," he said with a hearty laugh. "I got it, and I was like 'He's gonna try his dangdest to get this, and I won't let him.'

"We've got four really good big guys, and I don't know if he's quite gone against four big guys like that. We just tried to double the post, constantly deny the post and keep him off the glass."

Aldrich played just four minutes after the half, but ultimately served as a bridge of sorts, allowing Kaun to avoid further foul trouble before coming back in the second half for a couple of key buckets.

Self has raved for weeks that no one on the roster has shown as much overall improvement over the course of the season than Aldrich, who most notably has improved his body and stamina.

Now he's given himself a good springboard into what could be a sophomore season in 2008-09 loaded with expectations. He's just got to do what he did Saturday one more time.

"(We were yelling) 'Yeah, Cole, great job, you know we're gonna need you do do it again Monday for us,'" Sherron Collins recalled of the postgame locker room. "And we're gonna need him. He's a big body. He's so young, but he's good."

Comments

Lance Hobson 6 years, 5 months ago

That is true, east coast bias is huge. I loved seeing Packer have to call this thumping.

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SDSurferFan 6 years, 5 months ago

Hansbrosiff's game is predicated on 95% effort and 5% skill. I respect the kid, but most of 'bros contribution came from drawing fouls on both ends. I was so stoked to see KU D him up so hard. Now, I know why pundits from NBA don't see him as good NBA player.

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SDSurferFan 6 years, 5 months ago

jayhawkinatl-

Couldn't agree with you more! It's like when Gino Terroto won the Heisman over Marshall Faulk.

Gino sells insurance. Faulk in hall of fame.

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SDSurferFan 6 years, 5 months ago

mcrobz, how tall are the twins?

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Dirk Medema 6 years, 5 months ago

What's the record for blocks in a year?

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number1jayhawker 6 years, 5 months ago

SD, I think one is 6'8" and the other is 6'10". They should still be growing, so who knows what they will be when they get here this coming fall.

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fansincewilt 6 years, 5 months ago

I think memories of Cole Aldrich might deter Hanbrough from wanting to come back. I think he goes. Maybe not much of a chance, but can you imagine Arthur and Aldrich roaming the paint next year? I wish all these guys well and several showed they are ready to make the jump, but I would sure like to see most of them return. They are a joy to watch.

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PhogFan4 6 years, 5 months ago

5 down 1 to go, lets do the damn thing!

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cincyHawk79 6 years, 5 months ago

T-Han probably won more because of the effort he puts in and it does stick out but Beasley is smooth, polished and by far a better talent.I think your right that T-han is gone because his weaknesses were uncovered and may have lost some money last night. It was awesome to see him get stuffed a couple of times.Way to go Hawks!

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jayhawkinATL 6 years, 5 months ago

Cole was great!!!!Hansbrough is a good player, NOT great. I noticed he doesn't play defense AND he isn't effective 10-15 feet away from the basket. Beasley's game is head-and-shoulders above Hansbrough's. Only reasons Hansbrough won POY were that he's from UNC and the East coast-bias of the voters.

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67coronet 6 years, 5 months ago

Could not believe the outcome! Great job and game by the Hawks! I watched ESPN commentary. Phelps, Vitale, Knight, obviously were not prepared for the final outcome fumbled around for something to say. Even after destroying the tar heels they really did not give KU a lot of praise........now they think Memphis is going to win it all! Sad KU does not get respect!

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Mike Crosbie 6 years, 5 months ago

Cole has developed great working against Sasha, DJ, DA in practice, next year he's THE MAN and with the twin towers coming in.....wow Bill's Legacy is in transition !!I really hope that by beating UNC all the Roy bashers can consider themselves even and finally respect his contribution to our history and tradition, like it or not those 15 years won't be erased. Can we now respect Roy and move on?Rock chalk !!

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vmwskywalk 6 years, 5 months ago

Cole played the most important and GREATEST 13 minutes a freshman has ever played in KU history. PERIOD. Our guys put the exclamation point on team. Everyone stepped up. I'm so proud of them!

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bbeckum 6 years, 5 months ago

Gee, where are all the Bill Self haters and basketball experts that have been so critical of coach and team all season?

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actorman 6 years, 5 months ago

That play where Cole ripped the ball away from Psycho was the play of the game. It said everything about the toughness of Cole and this KU team. That was damn exciting to see!

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tis4tim 6 years, 5 months ago

Cole is making a habit of tearing the ball away from the opponents. I recall in the second K-State game Cole ripping the ball away from Beasley sending Beasley flying to the floor.Great game for Cole last night. He's going to be a great one when it's all said and done.

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goldlighting 6 years, 5 months ago

How many UNC players hit the hardwood last night? Jeezzz, flop central!

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SDSurferFan 6 years, 5 months ago

Hansflop. Didn't realize he was such a flopjob. He's like Augustine where he grimmaces every time he is touched, great acting to get calls.

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FlaHawk 6 years, 5 months ago

T-Hans is a great college player but like Reddick will be a disappointment in the NBA.He is projected as a mid to low first rounder! Playing against more physical and taller oppoints will make his playing time rare in the NBA.Think Morrison and Reddick were BMOC but merely young boys in the band in the NBA!

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classfan 6 years, 5 months ago

KU basketball fans have no class and are cursed. KU will never when a championship because of the curse. You can't blame Roy for taking the step up and getting away from that, and Bill Self will do the same. He's as good as gone....Rock Caulk Chokehawk....Rock Caulk Chokehawk....Rock Caulk Chokehawk

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SDSurferFan 6 years, 5 months ago

classfan- Go back to Carolina with your thumb in your mouth.

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vmwskywalk 6 years, 5 months ago

Learn to spell while your at it.

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classfan 6 years, 5 months ago

The jayhawks always choke in the big game. They have won just two National Championships in the last 60 years, but they still think they are one of the nations top programs. Florida has won that many in the past two years. No, the jayhawks are chokehawks and if they forgot about ol Roy before he left why is that all they have talked about this week, and after KU chokes Monday night and Bill leaves a few weeks later we will all have to listen to the whining again. KU has no class, so the great coaches search for better schools with more class and to get away from the KU curse.....Rock Caulk Chokehawk....Rock Caulk Chokehawk....Rock Caulk Chokehawk....

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jayhawker_97 6 years, 5 months ago

makes me wonder if Kevin Love is as good as Aldrich. Cole was definitely a monster and he WILL be a bigger factor on Monday and of course, next year!salute to coach Self for sub'ing Kaun with Cole!Hawk chokes HeelTards! Hawk chokes HeelTards! Hawk chokes HeelTards! Hawk chokes HeelTards!

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