Cole Aldrich, who hopped off Kansas University’s charter bus with the rest of his teammates at 2:40 a.m. Thursday, headed to class just a few hours later.
Yes, Thursday — as members of the KU student body know all too well — was the first day of the 2010 spring semester.
“That’s the life of a student-athlete. You get up and go to class early and you go at it again,” said Aldrich, KU’s 6-foot-11 junior basketball center. He scored six points and grabbed nine rebounds in 21 foul-plagued minutes in the Jayhawks’ 84-72 victory over Nebraska on Wednesday night in Lincoln, Neb.
He’s not complaining about his late night/early morning routine. The communication studies major has made it a goal to earn first-team Academic All-America honors this season and has already met the 3.3 overall grade-point requirement to qualify him for such acclaim.
“It’s always fun to hang out on campus by yourself,” Aldrich said of the past few weeks in which most of the student body was out of town on break between first and second semester. “But it’s fun when the students come back because everyone gets excited. You see the students on campus, everybody walks around and says fun things.”
The Jayhawks now will resume a regular class/practice schedule. The Jayhawks have taken part in several two-a-days the past couple weeks. That’s impossible now that class is back in session.
“I think Christmas (break) is really a big thing where teams can really get good,” Aldrich said. “That Tennessee game (76-68 loss last Sunday) was a real struggle for us. I think against Nebraska, the way we fought (after falling in 12-1 hole), I think we’re getting better.”
Aldrich for the second straight year failed to score a field goal in the first half of a KU victory in Lincoln. He finished with one bucket in four tries after scoring eight points and grabbing eight boards in last season’s 68-62 victory in Devaney Center.
“It’s a little tough. They play a hard, sagging man (to-man),” Aldrich said. “Sherron (Collins, 22 points) was great. He held us in the game in the first half. I got in foul trouble off, I don’t know if I’d say dumb fouls, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sherron stayed aggressive. He told me, ‘I’ve got you man. We’re going to be good (tonight).’’’
Aldrich was also impressed with the play of the Morris twins. Marcus had 19 points and seven rebounds; Markieff five points and three rebounds.
“Marcus was really good. He stayed aggressive,” Aldrich said. “And I think ’Kieff ... on the one we had the little pick and roll and he brought the rim down. It was great because we have to stay aggressive as bigs.”
Markieff Morris, who hit a three to give KU a 63-56 lead with 9:54 left, accepted a pass from Brady Morningstar and rammed home a vicious dunk with KU down, 36-30, with five minutes left in the first half.
“Nebraska hit some big shots in the first half, but we stayed aggressive,” Aldrich said. “In the second half, we hit some big shots. Brady really stepped up his game again and made some good defensive plays.”
The Cornhuskers, who made 11 of 21 threes to KU’s 13 of 21, made believers out of the Jayhawks.
“Diaz (Jorge Brian, 15 points) is a young kid and still has a lot to learn. He’s going to be really good,” Aldrich gushed. “Jeter (Lance, eight assists, three turnovers) got to the rim. As a team, they spot up and hit some big threes. It’s going to be another good game when they come to Lawrence (Feb. 6).”
The Jayhawks are feeling much better about themselves heading into Saturday’s 12:45 p.m. home game against Texas Tech.
“After that Tennessee loss, we were all down,” Aldrich said. “We knew what we needed to do to get back. We knew we needed to defend, just really listen to coach and do what he wants because that wins us big games.”