Bryant Crawford, despite nursing an injured finger in the second half, scored 20 points, and Wake Forest defeated previously unbeaten Illinois 80-73 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday night at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Doral Moore, Brandon Childress and Mitchell Wilbekin all had 12 points as the Demon Deacons (3-4) won consecutive games for the first time this season.
Wilbekin’s 3-pointer from the right wing helped stem an Illinois comeback for a 73-65 edge.
The margin was down to 73-70 with 2:06 left when Wake Forest‘s Keyshawn Woods answered with a 3-pointer. Da’Monte Williams countered from long range for Illinois before the Demon Deacons finished strong, giving first-year Illinois coach Brad Underwood his first loss.
Aaron Jordan led the Illini (6-1) with 20 points. Kipper Nichols provided 14 points and Leron Black had 10 for Illinois, which played away from home for the first time and was hurt by 19 turnovers.
By the time Childress converted a four-point play and then scored on a fastbreak layup, the Demon Deacons held a 49-39 lead barely more than five minutes into the second half.
After the Illini closed to within one, Wake Forest had another spurt, aided by a bizarre six-point possession that included a pair of Illinois fouls, for a 64-55 edge.
Mark Alstork scored the first eight points for the Illini before he came out of the game with an apparent slight injury. He returned but didn’t score again in 27 total minutes.
The Illini hit four 3-pointers in the first 5 1/2 minutes on the way to a nine-point lead. Wake Forest wiped that out with an 11-0 run to go up 31-29.
Across the final 8:55 of the first half, Illinois posted only one field goal until Nichols’ 3-pointer on the last shot of the half pulled the Illini to within 35-34.
Wake Forest, aided by Illinois’ 14 first-half fouls, took 18 free throws (making 14) in the opening half. Overall, the Demon Deacons made 24 of 31 foul shots while the Illini were 13 of 14 at the line.