KU's Cole Aldrich (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
This was a game for the history books on the late Phog Allen’s birthday. No, KU’s 85-45 win over Florida Gulf Coast and 1,945th all-time victory Tuesday night wasn’t an extraordinary accomplishment.
But the 16,300 faithful fans in Allen Fieldhouse will remember this
game forever as the night KU hung the 2008 NCAA Championship banner in
the north rafters.
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
“With him in the game, we tend to go up,” Collins
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
“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
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.”