Battling a lingering illness and distraught as his grandmother battled a terminal illness, Cole Aldrich wasn’t the same fun-loving goofball he had been during the first two months of the season.
Battling a lingering illness and distraught as his grandmother battled a terminal illness, Cole Aldrich wasn’t the same fun-loving goofball he had been during the first two months of the season.His lungs and his mind finally clear, the big fella is starting to enjoy himself again.Aldrich dominated Missouri inside with 12 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots, helping No. 2 Kansas run over the rival Tigers 84-65 Monday night.“Over the last few games, I’m starting to get back into the groove where I was last year,” said Aldrich, who tied Danny Manning for fifth on KU’s all-time list with 200 blocks. “I’m just having fun again.”Kansas (19-1, 5-0 Big 12) dominated inside and hounded Missouri defensively to turn the Border Showdown into a beatdown.Marcus Morris scored 11 of his 17 points to help Kansas build a 20-point lead by halftime, and twin brother Markieff Morris grabbed 11 rebounds for the Jayhawks, who haven’t lost to Missouri at home since 1999. Tyrel Reed was 4 for 4 from 3-point range and had a career-high 14 points to help extend the nation’s longest home winning streak to 54 games.The rout started with Aldrich.The junior has steadily gotten better with each game since his grandmother, Ann, died in Minnesota on Jan. 15. He had 10 points while still grieving against Baylor, then a double-double in a convincing road win over Iowa State on Saturday.Against Missouri, the athletic 6-foot-10 center used his ptredtactyl-like wing span to score at the rim and harass Missouri all night. He was seemingly everywhere in the first half, grabbing 12 rebounds — most in a half for KU since Wayne Simien in 2003 — blocking five shots, and even wiping up his sweat from the floor after diving for a loose ball.“He’s got a freer mind now,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Cole never lets anyone know what’s going on. When he plays well, he plays poorly, whatever it is you can’t tell by looking at his face. He kind of keeps everything inside, and he’s had a lot of things weighing on him. I think he’s had a little bit of a release the past week or so.”The Tigers (15-5, 3-2) needed a good shooting night to end a 10-game losing streak in Lawrence and didn’t get it. Missouri had trouble getting shots off inside against Aldrich and couldn’t hit from the outside, either, shooting 28 percent.Justin Safford had 19 points to lead the Tigers, who got 17 combined points from leading scorers Kim English, Marcus Denmon and Laurence Bowers.Surprisingly, even defense was a problem for Missouri.The Tigers haven’t consistently gotten “The Fastest 40 Minutes of Basketball” revved up this season, ramping up their frenetic pressure only in spurts. Been more like “The Fastest 30-to-32 Minutes in Basketball.”Against Kansas, it was about 4.Even in turning it over 23 times, the Jayhawks made Missouri’s press seem almost at a standstill, whipping passes up the court for layups and dunks on the way to shooting 49 percent. Kansas had its way inside, too, outscoring Missouri 36-18 in the paint, grabbing 28 more rebounds and scoring 17 points off 18 offensive boards.“You create some turnovers, but at the same time, you have to put the ball in the hole,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “If you’re on the road, you have to put the ball in the hole. We didn’t do that tonight.”The Jayhawks were clearly ready for the start of their rivalry week, which concludes Saturday at Kansas State.Kansas brought in ’70s rocker Eddie Money for an enthusiastic rendition of the national anthem, and the fans had Allen Fieldhouse roaring like a jet hanger just before tipoff, creating shifting walls of blue as they jumped up and down.Unlike Baylor, which left during the pregame video and player introductions the last game at Allen Fieldhouse, the Tigers stood around and took it, then went right at the Jayhawks.Missouri took Kansas’ initial hit, even opened the game with an 8-3 run in The Phog.Then it went dark for the Tigers.Kansas started hitting shots and swarmed Missouri inside and out, holding the Tigers scoreless for more than 5 minutes during a 15-3 run.The Jayhawks never gave Missouri a chance after that.Aldrich combined with Markieff Morris for 22 rebounds in the first half — seven more than Missouri — and Kansas had a 28-6 advantage inside to build a 50-30 lead.Brady Morningstar capped the half with an off-balance, pull-up 3-pointer at the buzzer that banked off the glass, hovered above the rim for a second then dropped in as the crowd followed along with “ooh-ahh-yeah!”It was that kind of night for Kansas.“The first 10 minutes, we kind of had the game going the way we wanted,” Safford said. “Then they gave us one punch, we folded and guys just went separate ways.”MISSOURI (15-5) — Ramsey 3-7 0-0 8, Safford 5-15 8-10 19, Tiller 2-11 4-5 8, Dixon Jr. 1-7 0-0 2, Taylor 2-6 7-7 11, Paul 0-1 0-0 0, Denmon 1-1 0-0 3, Bowers 2-7 0-0 5, English 3-13 2-2 9, Moore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-68 21-24 65.KANSAS (19-1) — Marc.Morris 6-10 5-6 17, Aldrich 4-5 4-6 12, X.Henry 3-8 0-0 9, Collins 2-11 2-2 6, Morningstar 3-7 2-2 9, Robinson 0-0 0-2 0, Teahan 0-1 0-0 0, Withey 0-0 1-2 1, Taylor 2-5 3-4 7, Reed 5-6 0-0 14, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Mark.Morris 3-4 2-2 9. Totals 28-57 19-26 84.Halftime — Kansas 50-30. 3-Point Goals — Missouri 6-18 (Ramsey 2-3, Denmon 1-1, Bowers 1-2, Safford 1-3, English 1-4, Taylor 0-2, Dixon Jr. 0-3), Kansas 9-19 (Reed 4-4, X.Henry 3-7, Mark.Morris 1-1, Morningstar 1-2, Teahan 0-1, Collins 0-4). Fouled Out — Taylor. Rebounds — Missouri 28 (Safford 7), Kansas 56 (Aldrich 16). Assists — Missouri 8 (Tiller 3), Kansas 18 (Morningstar 5). Total Fouls — Missouri 21, Kansas 23. A — 16,300.