Jordan rules with Illini

Jordan rules with Illini

CHAMPAIGN — Aaron Jordan's three-pointer with just less than 10 minutes to play Sunday night against Maryland pulled Illinois within six points of the Terrapins.

It was as close as the Illini had been since midway through the first half. The shot was also an example of what the Illinois offense could be.

Trent Frazier was pushing the ball up the court. Jordan took the pass just right of the top of the key and stepped into the three-pointer in transition.

What happened after that made three-pointer is what's become more important.

The State Farm Center crowd roared its approval as Illinois continued to whittle away at what had been a 22-point deficit. Jordan seemed to feed off the made shot and the crowd's energy, too. A pair of determined claps and a yell preceded the junior guard nearly ripping the "Fighting" part of his throwback jersey off as he emphatically popped it.

"With the fans yelling, everybody hyped, I knew that was a big shot," he said. "My teammates were looking at me. We've got to have that out there."

Jordan is not just a double digit scorer and the nation's most efficient three-point shooter heading into today's 7 p.m. tip against Austin Peay at State Farm Center. He's become one of Illinois' emotional leaders.

"He excites me more for what he brings in personality and attitude than he does with his play, and his play is tremendous," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "He has so much emotion and swagger and confidence. He's talking and there's emotion. I love him for that. That's special. That's what basketball is about. That's what big moments are about."

Jordan has always had that emotionally-charged side to his personality.

Until this season, though, his contributions in that regard came from the Illinois bench. He played 11.4 minutes per game as a freshman, with his playing time yo-yoing from game to game.

Jordan's sophomore season saw that up-and-down playing time taken to an entirely different level. He played double digit minutes in four of the first five games and then took 11 did not plays in the final 30 games of the season.

Jordan's enthusiasm never waned even as his opportunities to play became more and more limited. Given the chance this season, the 6-foot-5 guard has made a clear breakthrough.

Jordan has found a meaningful place in the Illinois rotation. He's averaging a career high 12.9 points per game and shooting a nation's best 65.7 percent from three-point range.

That it took until his third season to make that breakthrough might seem odd given the growing one-and-done nature of college basketball and expectations that freshmen contribute immediately.

"It's the way it used to be," Underwood said. "You used to wait."

Jordan's wait came behind Malcolm Hill. The former Illini played the same position, and he was the go-to scorer in his two-season overlap with Jordan.

"He scored one point a game last year —

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Moonpie wrote on December 06, 2017 at 8:12 am

Yep, this is one of those famous moral victory columns the Lazy Gazoo is known for.

We got wihin six points! Moral victory!

jjohnson wrote on December 06, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Once again, Moonpie fails the SAT reading comprehension standard