Cole Aldrich enjoyed his Christmas break as much as he could, relishing the chance to visit friends and family back home in Minnesota.
Cole Aldrich enjoyed his Christmas break as much as he could, relishing the chance to visit friends and family back home in Minnesota.In the back of his mind, though, there was a lingering memory he couldn’t shake: that dismal performance against Arizona just before the break.Determined to redeem himself, Aldrich took it out on Albany, N.Y.Aldrich scored 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, Tyrel Reed added 12 points and Kansas shot 56 percent in a 79-43 rout of Albany on Tuesday night.“It feels really nice because we had a tough Christmas break,” Aldrich said. “It was real tough for all of us because we just didn’t play well over at Arizona. Having to sit and go back home and try to have high spirits back home was tough.”The Arizona loss was indeed difficult. Playing its first true road game of the season on Dec. 23, Kansas (9-3) got steamrolled by the Wildcats in the second half, watching a nine-point lead turn into an 84-67 rout.The Jayhawks simmered over the loss during the Christmas break, returning to campus rejuvenated and ready to put it behind them.Boy, did they.Dominating Albany at both ends of the floor, Kansas took control with an early 11-0 run, then built the lead to 21 points before halftime.Unlike the Arizona game, the Jayhawks maintained the lead, using a smothering defense and an efficient offense to extend it to 55-27 midway through. Kansas finished 9-of-19 from 3-point range and had 20 assists on 27 field goals to win its 31st straight game at Allen Fieldhouse.“We did some good things,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “(There were) silly fouls and giving them some free points, but for the most part that was a much better effort than the second half against Arizona.”Albany (8-5) entered its first-ever game at Allen Fieldhouse on a three-game winning streak, off to its best start as a Division I program. But facing the defending national champions in one of college basketball’s most intimidating arenas isn’t the same as beating Bryant, Canisius or St. Francis.It didn’t help that Kansas had a week to think about the loss to Arizona and was ready to take it out on whoever was next on the schedule.“We were the lucky recipient of their post-Arizona game,” Albany coach Will Brown said.The Great Danes had all kinds of trouble with Kansas’ pressure defense from the start, forced to take deep 3-pointers or offbalance shots late in the shot clock. Albany was 8-of-33 from the field in the first half, including an eight-minute scoring drought, to trail 40-19 and shot 30 percent overall, missing all 15 of its 3-point attempts.Anthony Raffa led the Great Danes with 11 points.It wasn’t any better defensively for Albany. The Jayhawks got shots where and when they wanted, hitting 13-of-24 from the floor in the first half, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range. The Great Danes didn’t help themselves any by allowing numerous easy baskets, including a dunk by Travis Releford off a made basket at the other end.“In this environment, every time (KU) scores, the place goes nuts,” Brown said. “A simple basket by them is like they won a championship and that can become very demoralizing, especially for a team that was struggling defensively as much as we were.”And Kansas did it without much help from Sherron Collins.The Jayhawks’ leading scorer — 17.8 points per game — attempted just two shots in the first half and took a pounding in the second, injuring his left leg early, then slamming into the basket support after a hard foul with about 8 minutes left. He finished with seven points on 2-of-5 shooting.Aldrich made up for Collins’ quiet night.The sophomore center averaged 7.1 shots over the last six games after averaging 11.4 in the first five. Some of it has been teammates failing to get him the ball, but many times Aldrich has hurt himself with foul trouble.That was the case against Arizona, when Aldrich was outplayed by Jordan Hill, managing just four shot attempts while Hill finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds.“I just didn’t play well at all in that game,” Aldrich said.The Jayhawks clearly wanted to get their best post player in a rhythm against Albany, feeding him the ball on three of their first four possessions. Aldrich dropped the first one off to Markieff Morris for an easy dunk, followed by a jumper in transition and a pair of free throws in the game’s first 2:11.He was active on defense as well, blocking three shots in the first half, altering several others.Aldrich kept it going in the second half, scoring 10 points in the first 7 minutes, then added a putback on a missed free throw. He finished with six rebounds.“The guards did a better job of getting him the ball,” said Reed, who was 3-for-5 from 3-point range. “We’ve really been stressing that, to get it into the paint to Cole because he is our best player in the paint. Whenever he gets it in the paint, something good is going to happen.”