Originally published March 13, 2009 at 12:00a.m., updated March 13, 2009 at 12:00p.m.
KU takes on Baylor in quarterfinal action of the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City.
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Oklahoma City Saying that the Kansas University basketball team regressed to playing playground basketball Wednesday in the Ford Center would be giving the team too much credit. The game they played did come straight from the playground, but it was called keep-away. Cole Aldrich was it.
To get the ball away from his teammates, Aldrich needed to move better, play more physically and demand it more forcefully.
Baylor’s zone defense collapsed on Aldrich, and the Kansas guards for stretches appeared all too willing to join the Bears in playing keep-away from Aldrich.
“We still need to find ways to get the ball to our big guys, just because that opens up the perimeter, and we can hit shots from there,” Aldrich said after Kansas was sent home in its first game of the Big 12 tournament by Baylor, 71-64.
Aldrich was half right in that assessment. The team does still need to find ways to get the ball to the big guys, so they can score and draw fouls.
More than once, instead of battling to get off a shot when passed the ball, Aldrich sent it back to the perimeter. Has it come to that? Could the big man be looking to reward the guards for finding him with the ball by returning it to them?
Adlrich, who has battled injuries to his feet, did not appear to run the court with the same speed and at times looked indecisive with the ball. Still, that’s no reason to freeze him out. He attempted just five field goals, made three and scored eight points to go with a game-high 14 rebounds.
Meanwhile, junior guard Sherron Collins made six of 20 shots and was charged with five turnovers.
“I’d be fine if I didn’t take any shot attempts and we won,” Aldrich said.
That’s a fantasy formula for victory. The Jayhawks’ season ends with its next loss. Rolling the dice by firing shots from the perimeter is no way to string together victories. Neither is getting off to a sluggish start.
Kansas eventually erased Baylor’s 30-13 lead and even took a five-point edge with 8:45 left, but getting so far behind at the start is living dangerously.
Playing an 11:30 a.m. game such as Wednesday’s gives a team a good chance to experience that strange not-quite-awake feeling that can occur in early-morning NCAA Tournament games. So far, not so good.
“Not quite everybody was into the game right at the beginning,” Aldrich said. “Whether it was an early start or this or that, we’ve got to be ready to play.”
For the most part, Kansas has done well against zone defenses. Not this one.
“We usually move the ball pretty well,” Aldrich said. “It kind of stuck to hands today. You just have to play hot potato with the ball.”
And you have to advance the ball close to the basket into the hands of players tall enough to get it done in heavy traffic.
“I think it is a tribute to their zone,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of Aldrich’s limited touches. “I think it is a tribute to our perimeter not doing a great job. Cole has to take responsibility for it, too. Guys have to find a way to get the ball. ... This was a game in which he labored probably as much as he has at any point in time this year.”
Aldrich could probably use the rest, but this wasn’t how he wanted to get it.