John Denton's Knights Insider: UCF Improves to 7-2 Thanks to Another Home Win


Dec. 13, 2011

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By John Denton

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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Jeff Jordan drove from the wing to the baseline and with just a glance found his brother, Marcus Jordan, who drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

Seconds later, it was Jeff on the receiving end as Marcus pushed the ball up the court on the break and connected with his older brother, who didn't hesitate in sinking another 3-pointer from the wing.

Just like that Tuesday night a UCF team that was struggling to find offensive chemistry of any sort had plenty of it in the form of some brotherly love from the Jordans.

Marcus scored a season-high 28 points and hit five 3-pointers, while Jeff added nine points and six assists as UCF battled through a slow start and held on the second half of a 77-65 defeat of North Carolina A&T at UCF Arena.

``It's pretty cool. We did that a lot in high school, but to finally do it for the first time in a UCF jersey is really cool,'' Marcus Jordan said. ``We joked about it during the game.''

His 28 points tied his career high, which was set previously against West Florida last season. Marcus passed up a chance at a new career high late in the game when he passed to his brother, who hit a baseline jumper that helped preserve UCF's double-digit lead.

Jeff, who started the second half and has played his best basketball of the season of late, was effective again running the point for the Knights. Not only does he get the Knights in good positions to score, but he also allows Marcus to play off the ball and focus on being aggressively offensively. He made three of four shots, hit his second 3-pointer of the season and turned the ball over just twice in 25 minutes on the floor.

``Jeff's a veteran and has five years playing at the collegiate level. He's been there and been in almost every situation,'' Marcus said of his older brother. ``He's getting comfortable after having to sit last year. Now after (nine) games he's getting comfortable and shooting the ball a lot better.''

UCF (7-2) won its third consecutive game and for the sixth time in the past seven games. The Knights now have three days to prepare for arguably their biggest non-conference home game of the season against Old Dominion Saturday at 5 p.m. The Monarchs, a NCAA Tournament team last season, lost 62-52 to high-powered Kentucky back on Nov. 20.

``That's a team that won 27 games and got beat at the buzzer by Butler in the NCAA Tournament. They are always one of the top rebounding teams in the country and they've got bigs who play tough and physical,'' UCF coach Donnie Jones said. ``It's going to be a physical battle and a grind-out game. It will be another opportunity for us to play another tournament team at our arena. Hopefully we can get some fans out here, get some fans out of Orlando and let's try to pack this place. It will be a good NCAA Tournament environment.''

UCF got 13 points and seven rebounds from junior forward Keith Clanton, while senior P.J. Gaynor added 11 points, seven rebounds and two 3-pointers Tuesday. Sophomore Isaiah Sykes, the hero of Saturday's victory against Bethune-Cookman, chipped in 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

UCF made a season-best nine 3-pointers against the zone defense by North Carolina A&T (4-6). The Knights hit just one of nine 3-point tries in Saturday's narrow victory against Bethune-Cookman.

Marcus Jordan came into Tuesday's game having made just 23.8 percent of his 3-point shots. That was somewhat troubling to him considering that he worked most of the summer to improve his shooting range, staying in the gym until he made hundreds of 3-pointers a day. But he broke out of that slump on Tuesday night by making five of 12 shots from beyond the arc.

UCF needed every one of those 3-pointers against a North Carolina A&T team that made eight shots from beyond the arc itself. The Aggies led by as many as seven points in the first half and sliced UCF's 18-point lead to 66-60 with 4:47 left. Jones was bothered by UCF's slow starts and its lulls in concentration in the second half.

``I wasn't very happy at the end of the game. You cherish victories because they are never easy to get, but we're definitely not playing anywhere the level we need to be playing,'' Jones said.

Four of Jordan's 3-pointers came in the first half, three of which during a game-turning 17-4 run that brought UCF back from an early seven-point deficit. Afterward, Marcus talked about the special bond that the two brothers share on the court.

``There are little things that we do to either tell the other person to pick it up a little bit or little signals for backdoors and things like that,'' he said. ``So it's definitely fun playing with him.''

UCF led 39-26 at intermission, but that belied the troubles the Knights had offensively early in the game. UCF hit just four of its first 15 shots and shockingly trailed North Carolina A&T 19-12 early on. But the Knights regained control of the game by getting 17 points and four 3-pointers in the first half from Marcus Jordan.

The Jordan-to-Jordan combination jarred a sluggish UCF team out of its early doldrums. With the Knights trailing 21-18 late in the first half, Jeff Jordan drove along the baseline and found Marcus, who drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Seconds later, Marcus pushed the ball ahead on the fastbreak and found Jeff, who drilled another 3-pointer from the wing.

``Coach told us they would jam up the paint and that we wouldn't get to the rim driving from the top. We knew we'd have to drive and kick and move the ball around,'' Marcus Jordan said. ``That's what we did and guys stepped up and knocked down open jumpers.''

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.