Illinois lose to Wake Forest in tale of two halves

Illinois%27+Petra+Hole%C5%A1%C3%ADnsk%C3%A1+%2813%29+dribbles+around+her+defender+during+the+game+against+Wake+Forest+at+State+Farm+Center+on+Wednesday.+The+Illini+lost+79-70.
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Illinois lose to Wake Forest in tale of two halves

Illinois' Petra Holešínská (13) dribbles around her defender during the game against Wake Forest at State Farm Center on Wednesday. The Illini lost 79-70.

Illinois' Petra Holešínská (13) dribbles around her defender during the game against Wake Forest at State Farm Center on Wednesday. The Illini lost 79-70.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Petra Holešínská (13) dribbles around her defender during the game against Wake Forest at State Farm Center on Wednesday. The Illini lost 79-70.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Petra Holešínská (13) dribbles around her defender during the game against Wake Forest at State Farm Center on Wednesday. The Illini lost 79-70.

By Jacob Diaz, Staff writer

By the time Brandi Beasley was subbed out with 25 seconds left in the first quarter, she had led the Illini to their best start of the season.

The freshman point guard had four points, but more importantly had three assists in the first quarter, and Illinois jumped out to a 25-16 lead over Wake Forest.

The Illini moved the ball quickly and constantly early in the game, and their ball movement set up open shots for Illinois’ guards. Freshman Petra Holesinska scored seven in the first quarter alone, and looked much more like the Petra Holesinska that scored 18 against Memphis than the one that went 0-7 against Mercer.

“I think last game we played a great game, we got a lot of open shots but we just couldn’t make them,” Beasley said. “I feel like that chip on our shoulder gave us an extra boost to come out and go for Wake Forest.”

While the Illini were hot offensively in the first half, the Deacons were able to weather the storm with strong offensive play of their own. Wake Forest shot 42.4 percent in the first half, keeping the Illini from pulling ahead by double digits.

In the second half, Wake Forest attacked the rim on offense. The Demon Deacons had a height advantage on the Illini, and they were able to exploit it to the tune of 20 second half points in the paint and 13-14 shooting on free throws.

“(We needed to) communicate better.” Beasley said. “Some plays, we just got lost on switches or we were supposed to get through screens, but we just didn’t talk to each other enough.”

As the Deacons began roaring back to life, the Illini began to feel the pressure. Unable to effectively defend Wake Forest, the team needed to continue to successfully attack them on the other end.

However Wake Forest began to put more pressure on the Illini guards around the perimeter, making it difficult for them to move the ball as effectively as they did in the first half.

“We needed to be a little more patient and work to break teams down,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “In the first half, we got really good quality shots. In the second half, we didn’t make that extra pass to turn a decent shot into a great shot. We had 0 assists in the second half, and that’s disappointing.”

This also led to the Illini committing 10 second half turnovers, after only committing three in the first half. The Illini couldn’t find find open shots reliably in the second half, and this allowed Wake Forest to storm back and win 79-70.

Illinois had 20 offensive rebounds to Wake Forest’s nine, but the Illini didn’t take advantage of those extra opportunities, as the Deacons still had three more second chance points than Illinois.

“I thought that their 11 second chance points late really hurt us,” Bollant said. “We got a couple stops, but they got the rebound put-backs. Those are really deflating, when you work your tail off to get a stop but you can’t finish it.”

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@Jacob_Diaz31