KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Cole Aldrich swooped in from the weak side to block shots, altered others, rebounded in traffic. He made good moves in the post to set up lay-ups, passed out of double teams with ease, even hit a jumper or two.
Aldrich’s most impressive feat? He stayed out of foul trouble.
Staying out of foul trouble for the first time this season, Aldrich had a career-high 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked six shots to help No. 22 Kansas rout Washington 73-54 on Monday night in the semifinals of the CBE Classic.
“What we saw tonight is what we’ve seen in practice on a pretty consistent basis,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “From a game-performance standpoint, this was by far his best game, there’s no doubt about that. He showed a little bit of everything.”
So did Kansas.
After overwhelming Missouri-Kansas City and Florida Gulf Coast in a pair of home games, the Jayhawks (3-0) dominated Washington (2-2) at both ends in their first real test of the season.
Kansas held Washington to 29 percent shooting, blocked 10 shots and had a decent night from the floor (50 percent). The Jayhawks gave up 21 offensive rebounds, but made up for it by outscoring the Huskies 40-16 inside and 12-0 on the break.
Next comes a bigger test: Syracuse in Tuesday’s championship game.
“We’re going to have to play better than we did tonight to beat them,” Self said.
Washington was hurt by poor shooting, particularly early.
The Huskies missed 14 of their first 17 shots, yet kept crashing inside for offensive rebounds to stay within 26-22 with 4 minutes left in the first half.
But that was it.
Kansas scored the final four points of the half to lead by 10 and used a 12-0 run midway through the second to blow the game open, leading by as much as 22. Isaiah Thomas led Washington with 17 points and Jon Brockman finished with 18 rebounds.
“No one wants to really lose by 20. I’m disappointed there,” Brockman said. “For three or four minutes we kind of collapsed. In that three to four minutes they got it up to 20-plus lead and against a good team it is tough to pull yourself out of that.”
Kansas did it with contributions from up and down its lineup.
Sherron Collins had his typical effort, pulling up for jumpers and driving the lane for 18 points and five assists. Freshman Marcus Morris had 13 points and his twin brother, Markieff, blocked three shots.
Tyshawn Taylor had 10 points and brought the Sprint Center crowd to its feet with a highlight-reel block in the second half, catching Thomas on a breakaway and sending his shot into the KU band.
The key, though, was Aldrich.
The sophomore center struggled with foul trouble in Kansas’ first two games, getting two within the first 3 1/2 minutes in each. This time, he was able to avoid contact and, boy, what a difference it made.
Active on the offensive end, Aldrich backed down for jumphooks, passed out when the Huskies doubled. He finished 6-for-12, ending the night with a two-handed dunk before leaving to a loud ovation with just under 2 minutes left.
As good as he was on offense, Aldrich simply dominated at the other end, using his long arms to block four shots by halftime, alter several others. He ended the first half by blocking Thomas’ shot, leading to a breakaway layup by Taylor at the halftime buzzer, then blocked Quincy Pondexter on consecutive shots midway through the second half.
“I love blocking shots” Aldrich said. “It’s always one of those things I always enjoy.”
Kansas’ only problem was keeping the Huskies off the offensive glass.
With Brockman and Darnell Grant crashing inside on every missed shot, Washington grabbed three or four offensive rebounds on a couple of possessions in the first half. The Huskies had a dominating 17-1 advantage by halftime— Brockman and Grant had five each—resulting in 14 more shots than the Jayhawks.
Washington just had a hard time making the extra attempts, shooting 9-for-38 in the first half, including 1-of-10 from 3-point range.
“We couldn’t get anything going,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “They played good defense against us. We knew going into the game they were holding teams to below 30 percent. I see why now.”