LAWRENCE, Kan. — In the first half of Monday night’s game, the Jumbotron at Allen Fieldhouse flashed a picture of Cole Aldrich, causing the stadium to erupt in laughter.
Aldrich, the Kansas men’s basketball team's standout center, was covered in green body paint and wore a leafy outfit to depict the popular vegetable icon, the Jolly Green Giant. The costume, meant as a joke for Halloween, was also appropriate Monday. The Kansas Giant forced the Tigers to eat their vegetables … OK he didn’t do that, but he did overpower the Missouri forwards making 6-foot-9 Keith Ramsey look like a tiny toothpick. Aldrich was an insurmountable force the Tigers couldn't overcome in their 84-65 loss at Kansas.
Oklahoma State (15-4, 3-2) at Missouri (15-5, 3-2)
WHEN: 1 p.m., Saturday
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM
“He’s probably the best big man in the nation, and he’s definitely the best center in the nation, so it’s hard for anybody,” Matt Zimmerman, an assistant coach for Missouri, said. “He dominates the game on both ends. He’s a great rebounder and he changes everything on defense.”
A possession in the second half summed up the situation well. After catching the ball near the basket, Ramsey began backing into the 6-foot-11 Aldrich. Ramsey might as well have been backing into a wall. Aldrich stood there with his arms extended, and after realizing his effort was futile, Ramsey attempted a layup, only to have it slammed to the ground in front of him while his body turned to jello and collapsed to the ground with a loud thud. Ramsey looked up in disbelief as Kansas took off on a fast break.
“We practice like that every day, so I wasn’t tired,” Ramsey said. “But there is a lot of people out there, so you can’t just depend on one person.
Missouri had struggled in the past against bigger players, but had started to use its athleticism to overcome its lack of size. Missouri's forwards held Kansas State’s seven big men to just 20 points, and had equaled or outrebounded three of its past four opponents. The forwards, whose average weight is 229 pounds, were able to attack the bigger forwards with their speed to wear them out. However, the 245-pound Aldrich showed a glaring weakness in Missouri, its inability to score against a large defensive center.
“He altered our shot,” Ramsey said. “People didn’t want to attack because he was in there and everybody was getting their shot blocked,”
Aldrich finished the game with 16 rebounds and seven blocks, and completely disrupted Missouri’s game plan. The Tigers’ forwards couldn’t rebound and were turned into jump-shot shooters the majority of the game. Ramsey was able to cause some discomfort for Aldrich on offense, even forcing him into a layup that hit the bottom of the backboard. But at 217 pounds, Ramsey turned into a perimeter player on offense.
“Keith is going to give you everything he’s got, but he’s 6-foot 9 and really skinny,” Zimmerman said. “So it’s hard for him to match the mass that Cole’s got.”
Aldrich was like an older brother picking on his younger, more helpless sibling. He was able to post up at will on offense, and just had to stand with his arms extended to block layups. On any contested rebounds, he would rip it down with such force that any Tigers near him flew backward. Zimmerman said Aldrich was the main reason the Tigers shot just 27 percent.
When Zimmerman was asked if Aldrich had any weaknesses, he fumbled for something, anything to say, before finally giving in, “No, not really.”
Missouri will get another chance at Aldrich and the Jayhawks at home in its last game of the season, March 6. Ramsey said he has an idea on how to stop him next time.
“He’s not a charge taker," Ramsey said. “If we would have known that, we would have just gone into his chest drawing fouls.”
If that doesn’t work, the Tigers might want to bulk up on their vegetables.