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Illinois suffers first loss of season at Wake Forest, 73-80

It’s the first loss of the Brad Underwood era.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Fighting Illini suffered their first loss of the season against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 80-73.

This was the Illini’s first road game and test of the season, and their youth showed in the loss.

Mark Smith continued his struggles as he scored only five points on 2-of-8 shooting and Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams combined for only nine points off the bench.

The only real activity the Illini got was from their bench as Aaron Jordan had 20 points and Kipper Nichols had 14.

Bryant Crawford led the Demon Deacons in scoring with 20 points of his own.

The First Half

The Illini picked up from where they left off with their three-point shooting, starting 4-of-4 from deep to help propel them to an early lead against the Demon Deacons.

Early fouls, however, kept Lucas and Finke sidelined for the majority of the first half, both picking up two a piece in the opening 10 minutes. Wake Forest got easy points from the charity stripe to stay within striking distance.

Poor decision making against the Demon Deacons’ zone defense by the Illini led to the Demon Deacons taking their first lead of the game with 4:40 left in the half.

Illinois went on a four-minute scoring drought and went 0-of-7 from the three-point line after starting 5-of-6.

A huge three from Nichols at the end of half cut the deficit to only one (35-34), but that was a late savior for the struggling Illini.

At half, Illinois was shooting 37.5 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from beyond-the-arc. Wake Forest’s zone defense was extremely active and giving Illinois fits for a majority of the first frame.

The Demon Deacons made three less field goals than the Illini in the first half, but going 14-of-18 from the free throw line propelled them to their one point lead.

The Illini only got to the line four times.

The Second Half

At the start of the second half, both teams took turns trading baskets until a sloppy inbounds pass led to a three and a four-point lead for Wake Forest — Illinois’ 11th turnover of the game.

An 11-0 run, highlighted by a Brandon Childress four-point play, helped the Demon Deacons jump out to a 49-39 lead with 14:50 left in the game, the Illini’s largest deficit this season.

Aaron Jordan single handedly brought Illinois back into the game with his shooting from deep. He hit back-to-back threes during a small run by Illinois to cut the deficit to four and his point total to 17 at the 11:35 mark of the second half.

Black went on a 6-0 run himself to have the Illini trailing by only three with 8:35 left in the game. Wake Forest responded with an 8-0 run of its own to push the lead back to nine.

With 2:05 remaining, however, Jordan came up big once again with corner three to give himself 20 points and cut Illinois’ deficit to three.

After both teams took turns trading threes, Wake Forest took a four-point lead with a minute remaining.

A couple of bad possessions from Illinois essentially sealed its fate and gave threw a one in the loss column after Doral Moore capped it off with an emphatic dunk.

What’s next?

Illinois will be looking to rebound this Friday when they travel to Evanston, Illinois to face off against Northwestern. This game will be its first taste of conference action.