The last time these two basketball programs met on the court was Dec. 7, 1957, and Illinois came out victorious with a 75-70 finish at Huff Hall — yes, the same Huff where Illinois volleyball currently plays.
Illinois head coach Brad Underwood is excited for this overdue in-state matchup to resume.
“It’s very surprising to me. I guess it’s been since 1957 [since we’ve last played each other],” Underwood said. “This will be the first game actually played in the [State Farm Center]... I think it’s exciting; two programs that have tremendous history.”
Challenges DePaul will present for Illinois
Underwood said that the Blue Demons excel in two areas: in transition and on the offensive glass.
“They’re a team that literally has four guys that have the capability to get a rebound and lead the break,” Underwood said. “You have to have great communication in transition.
“They’re a team that is equally effective in driving the ball to the rim as well as they are stopping and shooting it from three-point line.”
In the offensive rebounding department, Underwood says that they have been dominant on the glass, and he called for his team to be “very conscientious” of them in that field.
When discussing the UT-Martin game, Underwood said that the only thing he was really frustrated by was his team’s offensive rebounding, so expect that statistic to play a key role in Friday’s game.
Junior forward Michael Finke feels DePaul’s size will be a nice challenge for himself and his team.
“They’re a really good rebounding team, offensive rebounding team especially,” Finke said. “I think it will be a really good challenge for us to go out there and grab some boards.”
The growing confidence of Aaron Jordan
Junior guard Aaron Jordan has 27 total points already through two games — four more points than the 23 he scored in 24 games last season. The 6-foot-5 wing from Plainfield seems to have an all-time high of confidence.
“(My confidence is) always high,” Jordan said. “I’ve just been in the gym working, you know, just believing in myself. When I get the opportunity, make the most of it.”
Underwood has been taking notice to work ethic that Jordan has been putting in this season.
“I see another level of confidence every single day in AJ,” Underwood said. “It’s remarkable, it’s quarter to seven (a.m.) and look to see who’s getting shots up, AJ.”
If Jordan continues to play at this level for the Illini, then expect him to quite possibly be the first man off the bench come Friday night.
Underwood pushing Frazier for greatness
Coming into the season, freshman guard Trent Frazier was one of the most talked about pieces of this year’s team, but it seems like his name has been left out of the spotlight as of late.
Through two games, Frazier is shooting 33 percent from the field and has made one of his eight three-point attempts.
Underwood says that there is a lot of growth for Frazier as a point guard.
“I’m not easy to play for when it comes to point guard, they have a lot of responsibility,” Underwood said. “Trent’s one of those guys that I want him to become more vocal. I want him to become more of a facilitator, not only for himself, but for his teammates.”
With that said, Underwood acknowledges the potential that Frazier possesses.
“Trent’s capable of being great,” Underwood said. “He has no idea how good he can become. He’s very gifted with the ability to put the ball in [the basket].”