LAWRENCE, Kan. - Sherron Collins scored 18 of his game and career-high 25 points in the first half…
Banner Goes Up, FGCU Goes Down
In a pre-game ceremony rich with highlights of KU’s national title victory over Memphis and coach Bill Self’s post-game speech, the 2008 banner was officially unveiled at 7:50 p.m. (8:46 mark) between the 1923 and 1952 national championship banners with the 1922 and 1988 title banners flanked on the opposite ends.
A spotlight shined brightly on the 2008 NCAA title banner as the crowd roared and flashed pictures on their cell phones.
“It was great,” said sophomore center Cole Aldrich. “It just about got some tears out of me because it’s so special. It means so much to all the guys who were on the team last year. (All the) KU fans, to see that get raised up, it’s a special thing to be a part of history.
“I’m going to send Darnell (Jackson, last year’s senior and current member of the Cleveland Cavaliers) a text right now and just say, ‘We wish you were here.’ It was real emotional for us because we put so much hard work into last season and it finally paid off. To put that banner up, it was icing on the cake.”
Hyped from the banner ceremony, KU (2-0) stormed out the gates with an 8-0 lead in this second-round game of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic. With Aldrich on the bench with two fouls (he picked up his second foul at the 16:21 mark of the first half), KU led 18-9 when Self called a 30-second timeout with 9:04 remaining before halftime.
Aldrich returned to the lineup and immediately dunked the ball on a dish from freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor. This sparked a 14-0 run, which included a steal by Aldrich and ensuing fastbreak thunder dunk by freshman Travis Releford. The 6-11 center also swished a 17-footer, grabbed three boards, and blocked a shot during the run before sitting out the last 4:20 of the half.
KU kept on coming and led 45-13 at halftime. The Jayhawks had 10 steals in the first half and 18 points off turnovers, while holding FGCU to a dismal 12 percent shooting (3-25 FG). Collins was huge with 18 first-half points, outscoring the Eagles alone by five.
KU didn’t have its same mojo in the second half as Self substituted more freely with the big lead.
Kansas shot 49.2 percent for the game, while Florida Gulf Coast shot just 23.6 percent. Collins led all scorers with 25 points, while Aldrich was KU’s only other player in double figures with 12. The Eagles were led by sophomore guard Reed Baker with 11 points, FGCU’s lone player in double digits.
Sophomore Tyrel Reed added nine points for Kansas, while freshman Travis Releford scored eight.
Sophomore Brady Morningstar received his second straight start and had a career-high six assists and three steals. Freshmen Markieff Morris and Taylor also started their first college game. Freshman Marcus Morris notched a career-high 10 rebounds and four steals, which ties Mario Chalmers as the second-most by a Kansas freshman since 1988-89.
This game, though, belonged to Collins and Aldrich. Collins was brilliant with a showcase of moves and hot shooting (9-14 FG, 4 of 6 from three-point range), but don’t discount Aldrich’s presence for helping break open the game in the first half.
“With him in the game, we tend to go up,” Collins said.
Aldrich was disappointed with picking up two quick early fouls, but rose to the challenge once he returned to the floor.
“I got back in and right off the bat got a quick dunk,” he said. “That kind of gave us a little boost of energy.”
Self was pleased with KU’s overall performance.
“I thought we played pretty good the first half,” Self said. “Sherron was fabulous. I hate playing without Cole, but I thought we did some pretty good things. We guarded them pretty good. It got sloppy there late in the second half, but that’s not really a true indication of the game. I thought we did some good things when our core group of players that played the majority of minutes were in.”
Like the KU players, Self said he “got close to tearing up before the game” watching the 2008 NCAA Championship banner ceremony.
“I thought the game day production did a fabulous job,” Self said. “It was pretty moving. ... It was kind of like a concert with all those cell phones pictures going on at the same time. It was really nice.”
“I’m pretty proud of those guys,” Self added. “That’s a remarkable accomplishment. Knowing that it will hang up there forever, that’s really cool.”
Self and the Jayhawks now turn their attention to the semifinals of the CBE Classic, where they’ll face Washington at approximately 9 p.m. next Monday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
For Kansas, it’s time to move forward after celebrating last year’s national championship on Allen’s birthday, the legendary KU coach and Father of Basketball Coaching.
Allen was born in 1885 and would have been 123 years old on Tuesday.
“I would say it was a great coincidence, but I didn’t know that until after the fact,” Self said. “Tonight was a special night. We are reminded of last year all of the time, maybe now that was the finality of it.
“Hopefully, we can now focus on this year.”
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