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Three Up, Three Down: Illinois

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What a win. This will likely sound insane but that’s probably one of my favorite wins of the Manning Era when you put everything in context. Yes, I’m serious.

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

The Ups

The Zone Defense.. In my opinion, the zone was the key to this game. Even though Coach Manning is almost purely a man-to-man guy given the choice, it’s obvious that the zone worked better in this particular matchup and boy did it ever feel good to see an adjustment that was so effective.

DORAL. MOORE.. The big man was once again a monster, breaking a school record,16 baskets in a row going back in the season. The streak did end, but Doral finished with 12 points on 6-7 shooting and 6 boards in a tone-setting performance.

Momentous Plays From All. A four point play from Brandon Childress. A basket by Chaundee Brown followed by a steal and a perfectly executed three pointer (with a finger getting dislocated in the process) by Bryant Crawford. A key steal by Mitchell Wilbekin. A timely first field goal of the night in a pressure situation from Keyshawn Woods. A nasty block at the end by Olivier Sarr. Honestly this thing was a tough, gritty team effort through and through.

The Downs

Rebounding. Illinois crushed on the glass. going +14 (yikes) and absolutely killing on second chance points. To be fair, rebounding out of a zone is exceptionally difficult compared to man, especially off of caroms from long shots, but there’s no excuse for a 14 margin.is brutal.

Losing The Hot Hand. Junior guard Aaron Jordan went for a career high 20 points, including 4-6 from deep. The defense on the rest was pretty solid, but I hate seeing a guy go off like that seemingly without too much trouble.

Letting Illinois Back In It. At one point, Wake went up 10 and then gave up an 8-0 run in no time at all. Then, again, the Deacs proceeded to create more of a gap, followed by a few more brutal rebounds, turnovers, and defensive lapses to increase the tension again.

The Bottom Line

God I loved this win. A quality win after a rough start that shows what this team is capable of, Wake Forest pulled their weight to help the ACC get off to a very hefty 6-1 lead in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. I’d argue it’s pretty clear that the Demon Deacons are starting to find their identity after being lost early in the year, and kudos to players and coaches alike for coming up big in primetime.

On to the next. Go Deacs.

—SF