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Kevin Schnepf, Published March 21 2009

Aldrich slams it home: Bloomington, Minn., product has double-double for Kansas

MINNEAPOLIS – Cole Aldrich couldn’t have asked for a better homecoming.

The Bloomington Jefferson High School graduate had 23 points and 13 rebounds to lift defending national champion Kansas to an NCAA tournament 84-74 win over North Dakota State on Friday in the Metrodome.

What was amazing about Aldrich’s performance was of the nine shots he made, eight were slam dunks.

“I think my record for dunks is probably 12 or 13,” Aldrich said. “I think I had that in high school sometime.”

Much like Kansas used four different players to guard Bison point guard Ben Woodside, the Bison used four different players to guard Aldrich. Neither plan was successful as Woodside erupted for 37 points and Aldrich scored more than 20 points for the seventh time this season.

Bison starting center Lucas Moormann eventually fouled out. Backup Sam Sussenguth had four fouls. The Bison even used forward Michael Tveidt to guard Aldrich late in the game.

Dejuan Flowers, who played against Aldrich in summertime AAU games in the Twin Cities, was the fourth Bison player who tried to slow Aldrich down.

“He’s gotten a lot better,” Flowers said. “He has more balance, more base and is more aggressive than he was in high school.”

The Bison tried to stop Aldrich with a sagging man-to-man defense and a lot of weakside help. But according to Bison head coach Saul Phillips, most of Aldrich’s dunks were a result of the penetration of point guard Sherron Collins – who lobbed four passes for Aldrich dunks.

“Unfortunately, Cole just walked through the back here as we were about to come on,” Phillips said during his postgame press conference. “I think I went into the fetal position thinking that he was going to dunk on us again. What do you do? Life’s not always fair.”

Aldrich’s eighth and final dunk may have been the biggest. His follow slam off a missed Collins layup led to a three-point play that gave Kansas a 76-67 lead with 1:53 remaining.

“It came off the rim right and I just took it and threw it down,” Aldrich said. “It’s just kind of one of those energy plays that really hurts another team and really helped us.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com