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Centers look forward to matchup

March 26, 2009

Junior guard Isaiah Dahlman smiles as redshirt freshman forward Austin Thornton shoots free throws during open practice on Thursday.

Indianapolis — Senior center Goran Suton’s dominant defensive performance against Southern Cal didn’t strike fear into the heart of Kansas’ center Cole Aldrich. In fact, the Jayhawks star center said he’s looking forward to his individual matchup with Suton.

During Thursday afternoon’s press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium, Suton said those feelings are mutual.

“He’s a great player,” said Suton, who held Southern Cal forward Taj Gibson to three points last Sunday. “You have to keep him away from the basket, but at the same time you can’t front him too much because they’ll throw over-the-top pass (for an) easy layup or a dunk.”

The bout between Suton and Aldrich will be one of the biggest games within the game Friday night, when MSU and Kansas square off in the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis.

If Suton can neutralize Aldrich, it will force the Jayhawks to lean more heavily on guard Sherron Collins for scoring.

Collins, Kansas’ All-Big 12 point guard, already will have his hands full with senior guard Travis Walton, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Suton said the key to defending Aldrich will be keeping him outside the painted area, where the 6-foot-11 Minnesotan does most of his damage.

“You have to be physical with him,” Suton said. “Make him take some tough shots.”

Keeping Aldrich on the perimeter will be imperative for several reasons. First off, Aldrich doesn’t have a consistent outside shot to complement his array of post moves. Secondly, Aldrich is a dominant rebounder and shot blocker.

Sunday against Dayton, Aldrich netted the first triple-double in the tournament (13 points, 20 rebounds, 10 blocks) that includes blocked shots since Shaquille O’Neal accomplished the feat with Louisiana State in 1992.

Part of the reason Aldrich experienced so much success against Dayton and North Dakota State is because neither of those teams boasted a player who could adequately guard against his size.

The Spartans have multiple players they can throw at him, including senior center Idong Ibok.

MSU head coach Tom Izzo said he expects Ibok to play a bigger role against Kansas than he did the first two rounds of the tournament.

“He’s so wide, more than strong, more than tall, he’s wide,” Izzo said of Aldrich. “They run that high-low stuff … and it’s conducive for a guy like Aldrich. We’ve got a couple different ways that we plan on trying to defend it.”

The other matchup

To nobody’s surprise, Walton will defend the slippery Collins on Friday.

Walton defended Collins in the regular season matchup between the teams.

Collins scored 25 points, but 20 of them came in the second half when the game was already out of reach for Kansas. Collins, who also had eight turnovers, left the game midway through the first half with a nose injury but returned later that period.

Izzo said Collins was similar to North Carolina guard Ty Lawson with a jump shot, a compliment to Collins’ strength, speed and penchant for making plays all over the court.

“He can go north and south as quick, and I think he can go east and west,” Izzo said. “His strength, his intelligence, and his ability to shoot, it makes him a hard cover.”

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Izzo said he’s confident Walton will be up to the task.

“(Walton) takes every matchup with the best player personally,” Izzo said. “Not angrily personal, just that’s his forte, that’s where he gets his accolades.”

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