Preview: Illinois at Wake Forest
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[November 28, 2017]
Unbeaten Illinois takes to the
road for the first time this season when it travels to face Wake
Forest in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday. The Illini have been
impressive under first-year coach Brad Underwood, winning their
first six by an average margin of 20.5 points, while the Demon
Deacons enter the contest having won two of their last three.
Illinois has been winning thanks to a balanced offense that has five
players averaging in double figures, led by Leron Black (14.8
points) and Michael Finke (14.7 points, team-high 6.0 rebounds). The
Illini have been great at getting to the free-throw line, with the
team's 181 free-throw attempts ranking fourth in the country among
teams with six games played through Sunday. The Demon Deacons may
have found their offensive flow in their last contest, a win over
UNC Greensboro, shooting 61.5 percent from the floor, the highest
percentage under coach Danny Manning. Junior guard Keyshawn Woods
leads Wake Forest in scoring, averaging 17 points off the bench,
while fellow junior guard Bryant Crawford leads the starting lineup
at 15.8 points per game.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU
ABOUT ILLINOIS (6-0): Though his teams at Oklahoma State and Stephen
F. Austin weren't known for their defensive prowess, Underwood has
the Illini playing strong on the defensive end, which has led to
easy offense. Illinois ranked second nationally in turnover margin
(plus-8.7) and fifth in turnovers forced (21 per game), which has
led to an average 28.7 points off turnovers. Underwood has nine
players averaging at least 16 minutes, which allows them to play
hard when they're on the floor knowing they'll be getting a rest
soon, and that has led to a more opportunistic, hustling defense.
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ABOUT WAKE FOREST (2-4): Manning is hoping to see his big men get
the ball more often, especially 7-1 center Doral Moore, who would be
leading the nation with his .839 field-goal percentage if he had
enough shot attempts. Moore has taken only 31 shots in six games,
hitting 26 of them, and the Deacons coach would like to see him
utilized more. The problem, as Manning sees it, is that the Wake
Forest guards are catching the ball too far out on the perimeter,
making it difficult to feed Moore and the other Wake Forest big men
in the paint.
1. Illinois junior G Aaron Jordan leads the NCAA in 3-point shooting
percentage (65.2), connecting on 15-of-23 of his attempts from
beyond the arc.
2. Deacons senior G Mitchell Wilbekin averaged 4.7 points and was
5-for-21 from the floor in the first three games of the season, but
since moving into the starting lineup three games ago has averaged
10 points and shot 44.4 percent.
3. Manning and Underwood are facing off as coaches for the first
time after previously having squared off in Kansas-Kansas State
matchups as players in the 1980s and assistants in the 2000s.
PREDICTION: Illinois 80, Wake Forest 72
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